Great month capped off by returning starters for LSU
Ever since LSU beat Texas A&M, 19-7, in Baton Rouge to save head coach Les MIles' job back in late November, it seems like karma has been on the Tigers' side.
After going just 1-3 in their previous four bowl games, LSU dominated their Texas Bowl matchup with Texas Tech--rolling out to an emphatic 56-27 victory.
And even when defensive coordinator Kevin Steele decided to leave and take a job offer at Auburn following just one season in Baton Rouge, things quickly picked back up for the Tigers.
Less than a week later, LSU had already gotten their man. They brought in Dave Aranda--who had served as Wisconsin's defensive coordinator for the past three seasons. The Badgers ranked in the top 10 of total defense in all three years and led the nation in scoring defense during the 2015 regular season.
Last week, LSU lost yet another coach in running backs coach Frank Wilson as he left to become the new head coach at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Wilson will certainly be missed on the recruiting trail, where he was one of the best in the country.
But to bounce back, the Tigers received some tremendous news on Monday. Juniors Tre'Davious White and Kendell Beckwith both announced that they will be returning to LSU for their senior seasons.
This is just a week removed from center Ethan Pocic and defensive end Lewis Neal both announcing that they will also be returning to Baton Rouge in 2016.
Other juniors that have decided to stay put include: wide receiver Travin Dural, defensive tackle Christian LaCouture and safety Rickey Jefferson.
Overall, only one underclassman has decided to leave early in offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins.
The one early departure is the lowest amount since 2010. In the three previous seasons, the Tigers had lost 20 players early to the draft--including an astronomical 10 in 2013 and seven in 2014.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was White. Throughout the season, he has been regarded by most draft experts as a top-five cornerback prospect. Some rankings even had him as high as No. 3.
He will return as the Tigers' top cornerback for a third straight year.
On Monday, White released a statement saying, "Getting a college degree and becoming the first member of my family to graduate from a school like LSU has always been important to me. Playing in Tiger Stadium in front of our great fans is something that I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to. I'm going to leave LSU with a degree and do everything that I can to help this team compete for a national title."
Beckwith said something similar. He stated, "Tiger Stadium is, without a doubt, the best place on Earth to play college football, and I cannot wait to be back there on Saturdays in front of our unbelievable fans."
Beckwith was one of the most important pieces to return for LSU. They will need his veteran presence and production after losing their two other linebackers in Butkus finalist Deion Jones and Lamar Louis. Beckwith finished 2015 with 84 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
With 18 starters returning, the outlook for 2016 is looking good for the Tigers.
LSU returns their quarterback in Brandon Harris, their entire backfield--including Heisman contender Leonard Fournette--and all of their receivers except for recent TCU transfer John Diarse.
They will return three offensive linemen.
Defensively, their entire line returns, along with Beckwith at linebacker.
In the secondary, they will lose a four-year starter in Jalen Mills, but they return one of the best safeties in the country in Jamal Adams, one of best corners in White and two vastly talented young cornerbacks in Kevin Toliver II and Donte Jackson.