Well, as they say on the interwebz...
That’s right, as of today, defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is officially on the LSU Football roster, and will begin practicing with the team today.
However he is STILL not completely cleared for competition yet — he still has to pass an intercession course to be eligible for the fall. Because you see, this saga can’t ever really end. Valentine will likely miss the morning practices due to this class, but he’ll be out there in the afternoon. I’m told he’ll also be living with a couple of upperclassmen defensive linemen in order to make sure Valentine stays on the plan that the coaches have laid out for him to remain in good standing.
To recap: Valentine was one of the marquee players in LSU’s 2014 recruiting class — standing out even among the likes of Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams and Malachi Dupre. His transcript was flagged by other schools, leading to the SEC ruling him academically ineligible for the 2014 season. He spent that next offseason suspended and ultimately booted out of school due to a multitude of issues involving grades and work ethic. Two junior colleges and one arrest for disorderly conduct later, he set about on a path prescribed by LSU to return to the program and he appears to have followed it.
The addition of Valentine has huge potential for a number of reasons, including his 356-pound listed weight. He is the classic example of a space-eating defensive lineman that can command double-team blocks and occupy two gaps, something that is a huge asset for a 3-4 defense, like the one Dave Aranda is bringing to LSU.
Whether Valentine lines up at the nose tackle position and allow Davon Godchaux to slide out to an end position, or take the injured Christian LaCouture’s place at the 4i/5-technique position on the field side of the defense, he is almost certainly going to contribute in some form or fashion this year.
How much? Well, that depends on him. The stories of Valentine’s previous practices in the fall of 2014 were impressive, and involve him treating veteran offensive linemen like Vadal Alexander, La’el Collins and Ethan Pocic like rag-dolls in short bursts. But conditioning was a major issue, and at 350-plus pounds, you have to wonder how big of a role he can jump into right away for this team. This is a player that hasn’t played more than a few junior college games in nearly three years, and has never even gone through a practice with Ed Orgeron or worked with Aranda’s playbook. Of course, even 10-15 snaps a game are valuable right now, and with a chance to contribute more in the season’s final stretch against the likes of Alabama and Arkansas. That, to me, is where the real value comes in.
But he’s a player that has thrown a way opportunities before. Let’s hope Valentine understands just what kind of chance he’s been given here.