Huge news out of LSU this afternoon with the official announcement that linebacker Kendell Beckwith and cornerback Tre'davious White will both be returning for their senior seasons. This news marks six of the possible seven draft-eligible juniors returning for LSU, something that hasn't happened in recent memory. Left tackle Jerald Hawkins remains the only Tiger to declare for the draft, and he could still reconsider, provided he hasn't signed with an agent by Thursday.
From the official LSU release:
BATON ROUGE - Linebacker Kendell Beckwith and cornerback/return specialist Tre'Davious White will spend another year with the Tigers as the defensive standouts announced on Monday that they will return to LSU for their senior season.
"These are special guys," LSU coach Les Miles said of Beckwith and White. "They have a real fondness and enjoyment for this football team. They are leaders; Kendell makes all the calls from the Mike linebacker spot and Tre'Davious wears No. 18, which has always been the mark of a leader.
"Decisions like this aren't easy to make. These guys took their time, got all of the information necessary to make a real educated and quality decision."
Beckwith and White join fellow juniors in wide receiver Travin Dural, center Ethan Pocic, defensive end Lewis Neal, defensive tackle Christian LaCouture and defensive back Rickey Jefferson who had previously announced that they are returning to LSU for another season.
"This is a windfall for us," Miles said of the group of juniors coming back for another year at LSU. "For the first time, we return a big senior class. Anytime that you have a senior dominated team, you recognize that you are going to play with leaders, and guys always play their best year of football when they are most mature.
"This is a great decision for all of these guys. They are going to get their college degree and they will all improve their draft position. This is a great day for LSU and our program."
Other members of LSU's 2016 senior class, all of which have started at least one game in their career, include: offensive lineman Josh Boutte, tight end Colin Jeter, tight end DeSean Smith, quarterback Anthony Jennings, defensive end Tashawn Bower, linebacker Duke Riley, defensive back Dwayne Thomas, defensive back Corey Thompson, and kickers Trent Domingue and Colby Delahoussaye.
In his first full season as a starter at middle linebacker in 2015, Beckwith ranked second on the team with 84 tackles, which included 10.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Beckwith also forced a pair of fumbles for an LSU defense that ranked third in the SEC in rushing yards per game (122.9) and fifth in the league in total defense (347.2).
In three years with the Tigers, Beckwith has 172 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks to his credit. He capped the 2015 season with perhaps the most productive game of his career with eight tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in LSU's bowl win over Texas Tech. He was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award in 2015, which is presented annually to the top linebacker in college football.
White, a three-year starter at cornerback, earned second team All-SEC honors in 2015, after recording 44 tackles and seven pass breakups for the Tigers. He also doubled as one of the top punt returners in the conference, averaging 11.4 yards on 20 returns. For the second straight year, White returned a punt for a touchdown, going 69 yards for a score in the win over Syracuse.
For his career, White 132 tackles, 20 pass break ups and four interceptions. He's also ranked among the LSU all-time leader in punt returns with 493 yards and two TDs on 44 returns. White has twice been a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award, which goes to the top defensive back in college football.
LB Kendell Beckwith statement on his decision to return to LSU:
"After a lot of prayer and careful consideration about the 2016 NFL Draft, and after speaking with my family and Coach Miles at great lengths, I have decided to return to LSU for my senior season. I feel as if I have a lot of unfinished business here at LSU. I want to give a special thank you to my family and friends who have been extremely supportive in helping me achieve my goals and especially during this decision. They'll continue to be an important part of my journey and I'm so grateful for their guidance and love. I have made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime here at LSU, and I'm so humbled to even be in the position that I am today. 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."
CB Tre'Davious White statement on his decision to return to LSU:
"After careful consideration and gathering as much information as possible about the draft process, I feel that it's in my best interest to return to LSU for my senior season. I want to thank my family, Coach Miles and the LSU staff for their support during this process. Decisions like this are never easy to make. 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 good bye 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, as previously discussed, was the news most of us were waiting on with linebacker being the most significant hole on the Tiger defense. Even with his return, LSU will have just five scholarship linebackers this spring and that includes true freshman Michael Divinity. But with the prospect of new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda adding more of the pressure packages that he ran at Wisconsin, Beckwith could shine in 2016.
The news about White is a great surprise. He likely would have been a top-50 pick, with him coming back LSU will now return all four starting defensive backs. White was a bit up-and-down in adjusting to Kevin Steele's defense last season, and struggled with the better wideouts on the schedule, but will likely be a preseason All-American in 2016.
With center Ethan Pocic, receiver Travin Dural and defensive linemen Christian LaCouture and Lewis Neal returning LSU will bring back some 18 starters, the most in the Les Miles Era. With that news, the Aranda hire and the propect of a top-three finish in recruiting, 2016 is setting up to be a special year for LSU football.