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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Early exits: Who's next for LSU?

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU has lost nine juniors who have declared for the NFL draft, a total that is likely finished for this year, though there have been reports that left tackle Chris Faulk, who missed all but one game with a knee injury, is considering an early departure.

Assuming Faulk comes back to Baton Rouge, LSU won't lose underclassmen again until next year. Who are they likely to lose? Here are the leading candidates:

DT Anthony Johnson: He only started three games behind senior Josh Downs, but the nation's top defensive tackle in the 2011 signing class should be ready to live up to his enormous potential as a junior. Despite mostly coming off the bench, he led LSU's defensive tackles with 10 tackles for loss, third-most on the team behind Kevin Minter and Sam Montgomery. He'll move into the starting lineup and will likely put up big numbers that will translate to a pro career.

Anthony Johnson
Anthony Johnson only started three games in 2012, but is considered an certain NFL prospect.
OG La'el Collins: One of the top offensive line prospects in the 2011 recruiting class, Collins came into his own as a first-year starter at left guard. If he progresses the way many think he will, he'll be a prime prospect to come out early.

WR Odell Beckham: The drop-off after the top two is noticeable, but there are some players that have a chance with a big year, starting with Beckham. If he can find consistency to go with his big-play capabilities, he can make a good pro prospect.

S Ronald Martin: What? A non-starter? Hey, this is the school that put Ron Brooks in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and Brooks was LSU's dime back. Martin will have a chance to start in the secondary next season and if he progresses in the system, he'll be enticing because he's already stout (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) and fast. The tools are definitely there.

RB Kenny Hilliard: With LSU losing Michael Ford and Spencer Ware, Hilliard figures to receive plenty of carries behind Jeremy Hill. A bullish 240 pounds, Hilliard can work well in the Brandon Jacobs mold for the right team.

WR Jarvis Landry: If LSU's leader in receptions can build off his strong finish to 2012, he can add to his draft value.