MOBILE, Ala. – It’s an equation that makes as much sense as 2+2=5 or water+freezing temperatures=fire.
LSU began the current NFL season with 42 alums on Week 1 rosters, representing the most of any college program, as highlighted by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread. Some of the names are as much a part of Sundays as bottomless mimosas, bloody marys and sleeping off a Saturday-night hangover: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
But the cold, frustrating fact is this: LSU’s most recent national title happened in the 2007 season, and the Tigers’ last SEC championship occurred during the 2011 campaign.
Given all the NFL-quality talent that has flown through Baton Rouge, why hasn’t there been more hardware of late? What gives?
“That’s a hard one, man,” former LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “We get that (question) all the time. We have so much NFL talent, but we don’t get the championships – the SEC championships or the national championships. But sometimes it’s just out of our control. It’s just the circumstances we’re given. But you feel like once guys leave, they blossom.”
That’s the good news for former LSU players taking part in Senior Bowl preparations this week such as White, linebacker Duke Riley, center Ethan Pocic and wide receiver Travin Dural. Add the fact that running back Leonard Fournette is primed to become a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and there’s a great chance the Tigers’ illustrious list of alums playing on Sundays will grow soon.
Still, that doesn’t mean some former Tigers’ minds aren’t twisted by the work left undone in Death Valley.
“Definitely,” Dural said. “It’s crazy to see the things the guys do on Sundays, and it didn’t translate to what we could have done in college. But it happens. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
It’s hard to point to one reason why that’s the case. Former LSU coach Les Miles, for all his sustained success, had his faults as a game manager before he was fired last September. Then there’s the little detail about Alabama treating the SEC West like a personal sandbox by claiming four SEC titles and three national championships since the Tigers last climbed atop the league. LSU has won 10 games in a season four times since 2010, but the Tigers only have one SEC title to show for it.
Despite all that, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said the NFL pipeline remains a strong recruiting tool when he tries to lure top talent to wear the purple and gold. Visions of Sunday stardom are placed in prospects’ heads early.
“Besides graduation rate, it’s the first thing we talk about,” Orgeron said of LSU’s strong presence in the NFL. “We sell it. It’s good. It has been great. We’re in a fertile area in Louisiana. We want to attract No. 1 draft choices from out of the region. Coach Miles did a great job recruiting. … LSU is a great brand.”
Orgeron’s job will be to make it an even better one.
Part of the reason why Miles is no longer Baton Rouge’s favorite Mad Hatter is because he failed to shut down Nick Saban’s suffocating machine in Tuscaloosa. LSU has lost six straight against Alabama as part of a run that includes eight losses in its past 10 games when facing Roll Tide. The Tigers’ recent bowl list won’t make LSU faithful pump a collective fist either: Chick-fil-A, Outback, Music City, Texas and Citrus.
First, there’s promise. But as the Tigers have learned, production is a whole different animal.
“When you’re being recruited, you know that a lot of greats have come through,” Pocic said. “You know that you’ve got to earn that right and you’ve got to earn everything. But you know that LSU does produce a lot of NFL athletes.
“I think we’ve just got to get it done on offense. I think the defense played great. I think it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to bite it, and you’ve got to make yourself better from it. We definitely fought, though. We definitely battled every game. I can leave LSU saying I have no regrets.”
Perhaps there are no regrets for Pocic and others. But there’s still room to wonder about LSU’s results and if they’ll reflect the program’s NFL-worthy talent one day.