BATON ROUGE, La. — Bigfoot was finally sighted at LSU’s indoor practice facility on Wednesday — all 6-foot-4 and 356 pounds of him.
Defensive tackle Travonte Valentine was the last member of the LSU roster to report to camp as he finally returned to Baton Rouge after a very circuitous path that included stops at junior colleges in Arizona and Mississippi after Les Miles originally dismissed him from the program in spring 2015.
Valentine rejoined the Tigers on Monday but is not yet practicing in full pads with the rest of his teammates because the NCAA has a mandatory four-day acclimation period for players who join up with a team after the official start of camp.
Although they haven’t seen Valentine practice yet this week, his teammates remember precisely how disruptive a force he can be.
“I have practiced against him in the past, and he’s a heck of a player,” said senior center Ethan Pocic. “A big guy like Valentine, he also has great get-off. So as a center you have to have great technique against that.”
While Valentine is a mountain-sized mass, Pocic noted his speed is far from glacial.
“He’s real quick for how big he is,” Pocic said.
Valentine is a perfect fit to plug the middle of new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense. His return to the program is a particularly welcome one when the Tigers have already lost three players in their front seven to serious injuries in the first week of camp.
“I already knew he was coming back, but the thing is I was just happy for him because now he gets a second chance to come help us with what we want do do,” said defensive end Lewis Neal.
Valentine has a number of strikes against his record, first getting suspended by Miles for all of 2015’s spring practices, then getting dropped from the program altogether for the always ambiguous “violation of team rules.”
Valentine, a sophomore in eligibility, spent last fall in Yuma, Ariz. at Arizona Western Junior College. But in a town where the high school mascot is literally the Criminals, Valentine found trouble. He was dismissed midway through the season following an arrest for disorderly conduct, though charges were dropped last November.
Valentine spent the spring and summer at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, completing the coursework necessary for his return to LSU. According to The Advocate, Valentine still has to complete a course at LSU in the summer session that ends on Aug. 20 to actually play this fall, but at this point, that would seem to be a formality.
When he does play, Neal foresees big things from the big man.
“I’m expecting him to disrupt the middle,” Neal said. “He’s a big guy, a big body. That’s what you need.”