So LSU’s elusive 330-pound unicorn, former five-star defensive tackle recruit Travonte Valentine, is finally clear to return to the LSU football team after more than a year and two junior colleges.
Kind of. Maybe. Possibly.
Sonny Shipp of the LSU 247 Sports affiliate reported the story this afternoon:
Former LSU defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is back with the Tigers and has been ruled eligible to play right away, as first-reported by 247Sports.
He’s now on LSU’s campus, and the elite JUCO product will practice immediately with the Tigers when camp begins this week.
This is a major shot in the arm for LSU’s program heading into the 2016 campaign.
Valentine has three years of eligibility remaining to play for the Bayou Bengals.
This time around, the Tigers get not only a bigger and stronger Valentine, but more importantly a more dialed-in individual.
“I want to focus on my three years at LSU to graduate and hopefully win a few National Championships,” Valentine said. “I’ve matured as a man since I left and want to prove myself to the wonderful fans at LSU.”
Valentine originally signed with LSU and was on the squad in 2014, but wasn’t eligible to play, thus redshirting. He was dismissed from LSU last summer due to team violations.
Valentine played last fall at Yuma, Ariz./Arizona Western Junior College. He then transferred to Perkinston, Miss./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
However, per the Advocate, LSU is not confirming Valentine’s status with the team.
And then there’s this tweet from 104.9 ESPN Radio’s Derek Ponamsky:
While progress has been made academically by Travonte Valentine, he has not yet been cleared to practice with LSU. @1045espn— Derek Ponamsky (@DerekPonamsky) August 8, 2016
My best guess, after some cryptic texts from #sources, is that while Valentine has cleared his necessary academic hurtles for re-admission to the university, there may be a hoop or two that Les Miles and the coaching staff want him to jump through before he may begin practicing. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Valentine giving quotes to Sonny irked the staff. Valetine’s previous time here was an astounding testament to doing “the wrong things.” After a lost fall due to the SEC league office flagging his transcript, Valentine was suspended for academics in the spring of 2015, and wouldn’t last much longer. I am told that had he not gotten the boot, he would not have been academically eligible for the Fall. He also failed multiple drug tests and had ballooned to well over 350 pounds when he left Baton Rouge.
That said, coaches aren’t in the habit of giving this many chances to average players, and the reports of Valentine’s limited appearances in those 2014 practices being very impressive. What’s more, he’s the perfect type of two-gap defensive lineman LSU needs for Dave Aranda’s 3-4 defense, either as a nose tackle or a 4/5-technique defensive end.
I would guess we’ll have some clarity to this situation at Les Miles’ next press conference on Thursday. But for now, the unicorn remains shrouded in mystery.