There are many other examples that benefit the purple and gold but the one thing that’s been hard to swallow for the program is the number of players on its own roster hitting the portal and landing at other SEC programs. It’s not just the transfer of players within the conference but within the SEC West division that has become a bitter trend.
Howard to Ole Miss is just the latest example but other high profile players in the program have also fled to other programs. Most notably there was cornerback Elias Ricks to Alabama or cornerback Dwight McGlothern and defensive end Landon Jackson winding up at Arkansas. Quarterback TJ Finley, linebacker DeMario Tolan and wide receiver Koy Moore are now at Auburn, quarterback Max Johnson is at Texas A&M and cornerback Raydarious Jones transferred to Mississippi State.
That’s a lot of former LSU talent the Tigers are now facing within their own division. Part of it is the cost of doing business in the transfer portal era of college football, where NIL within the conference and seeing the field early in a career play such a valuable role in many of these decisions.
But there’s no denying this is a trend now and one that the program and fan base might have to start getting used to. The Tigers have certainly plucked their fair share of SEC talent over the last few years. Wide receiver Aaron Anderson from Alabama, cornerback Denver Harris from Texas A&M and defensive tackle Jalen Lee out of Florida are the latest examples. But Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks from Arkansas or Major Burns from Georgia are a few more examples dating back a few years.
These SEC programs never stop recruiting even after high school these days so players who are a little lower on the totem pole in LSU’s depth chart will be feeling some outside heat from other programs. The SEC is the cream of the crop in college football in terms of notoriety and the deep pockets that lie within every program in the conference. It’s one thing to lose a talented player to a conference rival. But to lose players so consistently to division rivals the Tigers play every year is another level entirely.
That’s just the way this will go with no real regulations from the NCAA. Just last week, there were small strides made by the NCAA in limiting the eligibility for undergraduate players who elect to transfer a second time. There will be specific guidelines they must meet such as a “physical injury” or “mental health condition” that forces them to transfer from a school.
In all of the above cases of LSU players transferring, it was the players’ first time hitting the portal so they were immediately eligible. The Tigers faced a fair few of those players in 2022, including Ricks, McGlothern, Jackson and Moore.
But Howard and Tolan from this class definitely sting a little bit more considering how important they were to the future and the successful first season in Baton Rouge under Kelly that led to 10 wins.
The ideal scenario for LSU losing a player would be like the case of Jack Bech, who is off to TCU and the Big 12. However, there are talented players at schools like LSU that will be coveted by other SEC programs on a yearly basis. Kelly and the coaching staff can make their pitches as best they can but in the end there’s only so much they can do if another conference program offers the moon and the stars to another player.
There’s no real solution that can prevent this from happening to LSU moving forward which is why there will be some expectation that the Tigers will be competing against familiar faces in the future.