The post-championship exodus to the LSU Tigers hit another gear on Wednesday, when seven underclassmen declared for the NFL project.
Next season will be the team’s main rusher (Clyde Edwards-Helaire), the first dream catcher (Justin Jefferson), the main tackler (Jacob Phillips) and the nation’s best defender, Jim Thorpe Award winner Grant Delpit.
The mass departure comes less than 24 hours after the game coordinator has passed Joe Brady has accepted the post of offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
Center Lloyd Cushenberry III, left-wing outfit Saahdiq Charles and internal defender Patrick Queen also announced their decisions to turn pro early Wednesday. ESPN’s Mel Kiper ranks Cushenberry and Charles in the top 10 in their positions. Queen, who is not ranked in Kiper’s top 10 prospects at the linebacker, finished with 85 tackles, 12 defeat tackles and 3 bags.
Kiper classifies Delpit as the maximum safety admissible to the draft and n. 10 general perspectives for the 2020 draft. He finished last season with 65 tackles, including 2 bags and 4.5 tackles for defeats, with 2 interceptions, 7 broken passages, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Edwards-Helaire, the number 8 of Kiper on the return, has emerged as one of the best all-around backs in the country this season, running for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns to accompany with 55 catches for 453 yards.
Anyone who replaces the Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Joe Burrow will also be without Jefferson, receiver no. 7 of Kiper, and his 111 catches in command of the team, 18 of which led to touchdowns.
It wasn’t all bad news, however, as safety JaCoby Stevens and nose gear Tyler Shelvin announced that they would be returning next season. Stevens finished second in the tackle team (92) and third in the interceptions (three).
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.