NEW ORLEANS -- When you have some of the best defensive linemen in the nation in attendance at an event like the New Orleans Opening regional, you expect a lot of great one-on-one battles.

And nothing makes for better footage than watching a dominating defensive lineman go to work. Fortunately, high profile prospects like Alabama commitment Raekwon Davis and Edward Oliver did not disappoint at Saturday’s camp.


NEW ORLEANS -- At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, Alabama defensive tackle commitment Raekwon Davis towered over the competition at Saturday's Opening Regional at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans. He also loomed large over his peers with his play.

Davis, who is from Meridian (Mississippi) High School and ranks as the nation's No. 243 player, earned an invitation to The Opening finals, which will be held from July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Davis took a little while to get going during drills, but by the time the one-on-ones arrived, he performed admirably, winning repetitions at defensive tackle, defensive end and even offensive tackle.


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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU was one of the first schools to take advantage of signing seniors that plan to enroll early to financial aid agreements after the NCAA introduced the rule change in the fall of 2013. The Tigers were also one of the first schools, at least publicly, to be sanctioned for violating contact rules around the FAA agreement when the NCAA and Southeastern Conference banned LSU from signing early enrollees to the agreement for the next two years and stripped the program of 10 percent of its recruiting evaluation days in 2015.

At the center of the case was Matt Womack, a three-star offensive lineman from Senatobia (Mississippi) Magnolia High School, who signed a financial aid agreement with LSU last August with the intent to enroll at the school in January. Instead, Womack decommitted, like hundreds of prospects do every recruiting cycle, and signed with Alabama in February. LSU was punished because Tigers head coach Les Miles visited Womack’s home on Oct. 28 -- a trip that was perfectly legal at the time because a school can have unlimited communication with a prospect once that prospect signs an FAA -- but when he didn’t end up in Baton Rouge, the trip turned into a violation of NCAA contact rules.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesLes Miles and LSU found themselves the victim of a hole in the financial aid agreement rules in recruiting.

The ruling was puzzling because there’s a lot of discussion as to whether or not financial aid agreements will even be around in the future. An early signing period for football is expected to be approved by the Conference Commissioners Association in July and instituted this fall for a two-year trial period. The 72-hour early signing window starting on Dec. 16 would allow prospects to sign a national letter of intent, and some recruiters and conference officials believe it could render financial aid agreements obsolete.

Even if it doesn’t and schools are still allowed to sign prospects to FAAs, it’s still hard to fathom how LSU ended up being punished because a teenager decommitted. That was something LSU coach Les Miles agreed with during a Friday morning visit.

“How can you possibly blame the institution?” Miles said. “It basically amounts to this. You put up a sign where the speed limit is 45 mph. Then because a guy changes his mind, he takes down the 45-mph sign and puts up a 25-mph sigh. And then all those guys that went 45 back when it was legal to go 45, they’re going to be punished? It doesn't make sense.

“They said we could not even communicate with him. I never had a conversation with Matt Womack after the time he said 'I would like to not sign early.' Think about that. He didn't say 'I'm going to another school.' He said 'I would like to not enroll early.' I didn't have the ability to ever talk to him because of our compliance department. We couldn't even call and recruit the guy.”

Miles said in hindsight he doesn’t know how he and his staff could have handled things any differently than what they did.

“We have always been compliant with the NCAA, and we do the right things,” Miles said. “We stepped into the concrete before it hardened, and they pounded a nail in our finger for it. It doesn't make any sense to me.”

The NCAA still has to accept the penalties imposed by the SEC, but LSU is not expected to appeal the sanctions. Also keep in mind, the ruling won’t keep LSU from accepting commitments from players that want to enroll early. The only difference now is that they won’t be allowed to sign the FAA -- where unlimited communication would be allowed -- and just enroll in school at the start of the second semester.

LSU associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson said the topic has already come up with some recruits, but he believes it won’t hurt the Tigers’ chances to land top prospects that want to become part of the program in January.

“It's made us vulnerable for conversation and to have to defend it,” Wilson said. “It's information, or legislation, that the everyday parent doesn't quite understand. If you just read the papers or saw the scroll on ESPN, you'd think 'Oh you can't go to LSU if you're a mid-year.' So we've had to have educated conversations about it with parents and prospects.

“But we're able to present it in a manner where they know long term that it truly doesn't affect them. We've already got a few mid-term guys committed to us, and we know there are so many great reasons why the best players want to come to LSU.”

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Jalen Collins was shocked to learn at the NFL scouting combine that he had a fractured right foot.

For his sake, thankfully the combine medical staff still allowed Collins to participate, and he delivered one of the most impressive performances of any cornerback at the event despite the injury.

The former LSU cornerback, whom some draft analysts project as a first-round pick, recently underwent surgery to repair an incomplete Jones fracture in his foot. It prevented him from participating in LSU’s pro day on Friday, but should only sideline him for about three more weeks.

[+] EnlargeJalen Collins
David J. PhillipJalen Collins didn't let a broken foot prevent him from impressing at the NFL scouting combine.

“When I first found out, I was kind of disappointed because I didn’t think I was going to be able to work out at the combine,” Collins said. “When my name wasn’t on the list of people that had to sit out, I was excited to hear that.

“Just after the combine workouts I just went into it [thinking] this is something that I have to get done -- a little speed bump, but it shouldn’t be too hard to come back from.”

The foot surgery is about the only disappointing aspect of the three months since Collins declared for the draft. He started seven games last season as a junior and just 10 in his entire college career, but Collins’ combination of ideal size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) and raw tools helped him vault up the list of prospects at his position.

Not bad for a guy who was advised to stay in college when he submitted his name to the NFL underclassman advisory board to be evaluated as a possible draft entrant. Undaunted, Collins had faith in his own abilities. Those abilities have him sitting 24th on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board and ranking as Kiper’s No. 3 cornerback.

“I was honestly just hoping for the best,” Collins said of his decision to enter the draft. “Everybody wants to be in the first round, obviously, but coming in, I really didn’t have any prior expectations. I was just going to do what I could do and hope for the best.”

Following his combine performance, where he ran a 4.48-second time in the 40-yard dash and finished among the top cornerbacks in several other drills while performing well during positional exercises, Collins has reason for optimism.

Collins said he already has interviews lined up with nine or 10 NFL clubs, starting with the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars next week. Once his foot heals, he will surely have several more individual workouts with interested suitors ahead of the April 30 draft.

“It really has [been a whirlwind],” Collins said. “Leading up to the combine and just kind of working out, not really having any idea what would happen, just, ‘I’m going to work hard, do what I can.’ And then after the combine, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’ ”

While Collins was unable to participate on Friday, 22 former LSU players were able to compete in front of approximately 100 scouts and coaches representing every NFL club.

Offensive tackle La'el Collins -- another possible first-round pick -- was among them, although he stood on the numbers he posted at the combine and participated only in positional drills alongside former teammates Elliott Porter, Fehoko Fanaika and Evan Washington.

Linebacker Kwon Alexander, whose 4.55 time in the 40 was among the fastest for linebackers at the combine, participated only in the shuttle run and positional drills. Defensive end Danielle Hunter did all of the events and drills on Friday except the 40 -- he ran the fastest time of any defensive lineman at the combine at 4.57 -- and the bench press after completing 25 reps at the combine.

“I felt great [at the combine],” said Hunter, who injured himself at the combine while running his second 40. “I had a little hamstring injury and I didn’t want to do all the drills, so I just waited until pro day to do most of the drills.”

But Hunter was pleased with his showing on Friday, when he posted the best numbers out of all of the day’s participants in the 20-yard shuttle run (4.31 seconds), three-cone drill (6.95 seconds), broad jump (10 feet, 10.5 inches) and vertical jump (36.5 inches). ESPN Scouts Inc.’s No. 77 overall prospect and Kiper’s No. 9 defensive end, Hunter participated in positional drills at both end and linebacker.

“I got the times I needed,” Hunter said. “I showed what I can show in my drills. My hips, they could be a little better.”

The aforementioned foursome -- Jalen Collins, La'el Collins, Alexander and Hunter -- has already solidified positions as LSU’s top draft prospects, but several other Tigers needed strong performances on Friday in order to help themselves.

Two such players were running backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. Magee did not run the 40 at the combine after injuring his hamstring at a postseason all-star game, and Hilliard probably wished he hadn’t run in Indianapolis after posting a 4.83. He fared much better on Friday, posting a 4.6, while Magee ran a 4.56.

“I heard a couple different things. I heard 4.6 and I heard 4.5, but I’m glad with either one,” Hilliard said. “I just wanted to improve here from the combine and that’s what I came out here and did.”

Receiver Quantavius Leslie posted the fastest 40 time of the day (4.45), while Porter completed the most bench press reps (34). For a full list of results, see the pro day page on LSU’s official athletics site here.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's La'el Collins, who was a second-team All-American as a senior in 2014, said all the talk of him being moved to right tackle or guard in the NFL is just that for now -- "talk."

"Every team, every scout, every coach, offensive line coach from teams that have worked me out has said "definitely" I'm a left tackle," said the 6-foot-4, 305-pounder, a likely first-round draft pick who boosted his stock even further by flashing his athleticism at last month's scouting combine.

But Collins insisted Friday that he wouldn't have any problem moving inside if that's what his next employer prefers. And he only views it as positive that teams and draft analysts see that kind of versatility in him.

[+] EnlargeLa'El Collins
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesLSU All-American offensive lineman La'el Collins insists he won't have a problem moving inside if that's what his next employer prefers.

"I believe in my abilities. And I think the fact that I'm even in the conversation to be able to play guard or tackle at the next level is huge, that's value," Collins said after performing position drills in front of a packed house of NFL scouts at LSU's pro timing day (he elected to skip all of the other drills and let his combine performance speak for itself). "Being able to play both positions is something I love to carry on my shoulders. I feel like I can fit in anywhere, plug in anywhere."

Collins virtually echoed the same words that another former LSU left tackle said about him earlier in the day -- Cincinnati Bengals veteran Andrew Whitworth, who was on hand at the Tigers' indoor practice facility.

Whitworth is an ideal model and mentor for Collins since he also played guard early in his nine-year NFL career before becoming a Pro Bowl left tackle in 2012 and a second-team All-Pro in 2014.

"It's one of those things that sometimes people can get nit-picky about, but at the end of the day, he can be an excellent guard or he can be a great tackle," Whitworth said. "It depends on the system, and it depends on the atmosphere he's put in. Honestly, to me, it's more of a compliment, because that means they think you're tough and strong and physical, and that you can also play on the edge.

"If they can already consider you at two positions, that means they have a high opinion of you."

Collins' ultimate landing spot will depend on each team's specific needs. If he moves just one hour down the road to New Orleans, for example, he'll likely play guard for the Saints -- not only because they need one to eventually replace six-time Pro Bowler Jahri Evans, but because they've been ahead of the recent NFL curve when it comes to valuing the position.

Evans and Carl Nicks were both first-team All-Pro guards during the Saints' Super Bowl prime, because quarterback Drew Brees loves to climb up in the pocket.

Lately, more and more guards have gone higher in the draft league-wide -- including the Dallas Cowboys' Zack Martin, who was moved from tackle to guard after being drafted 16th overall last year and wound up being a first-team All Pro.

The year before that, guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper were top-10 draft picks for the Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. The year before that, the Pittsburgh Steelers' David DeCastro and Bengals' Kevin Zeitler both went in the 20s.

Another top prospect this year, Iowa's Brandon Scherff, could also be switched from left tackle to guard in the NFL.

I spoke to a few personnel folks Friday at LSU who agreed the guard position has become increasingly valued.

"If they're good players, why not [draft them high]," said new Saints assistant general manager and former Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland. "If they're gonna help you win, and they're gonna be productive and consistent and they're good character people and dependable, that's important."

"I don't think it is [a stigma to be moved to guard] anymore," Whitworth said. "I think now you see a lot of the really top-end guards that are getting paid the same as tackles, or at least close. So I think that position's changing."

Collins was set to meet with the Saints after Friday's workouts, since they had almost their entire contingent of coaches and front office personnel on hand. He said he has about 15 other visits set up, though he declined to name the teams.

Though Collins was glad he generated positive buzz with his combine performance (his 40-yard dash time of 5.12 seconds ranked sixth among offensive linemen), he said it was hard to sit and watch for most of Friday's activities.

"It kinda sucks, especially for a guy like me," Collins said. "I'm a very big competitor. It got me very anxious."

Asked what he hoped to show NFL teams, Collins said, "Just be consistent and show them my game's nowhere near where I'm gonna be. There's so much more room for me to grow, show 'em that I'm coachable. You bring me in, you can coach me and train me the way you want me to be. And I'll go out there and be successful and do everything you need me to."

Stay tuned for more coverage out of LSU's pro day from ESPN SEC reporter David Ching.

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Paul Finebaum and ESPN's Marcus Spears discuss LSU Pro Day and players that stood out.
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LSU hosted pro day on campus as several Tigers will work out for NFL coaches and scouts.
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LSU head coach Les Miles discusses pro day participants with SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy.
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LSU's Defensive Back, Jalen Collins speaks with ESPN's Greg McElroy about recovery and road to NFL.

On defense, the front seven needs a good secondary just like the secondary needs a good front seven. It’s a team effort. Earlier today, we broke down the SEC’s best front-seven defenders, and there were some good ones. But now it’s time to take a look at the back end.

Whether it’s pulling down interceptions, breaking up passes or wreaking havoc in the backfield, this group can do it all. One look at this list and SEC quarterbacks should be concerned heading into the 2015 season. Good luck trying to throw against some of these guys.

So without further ado, here are the league’s top defensive backs, listed in alphabetical order:

Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss, Jr.: With Cody Prewitt moving on, it might have made sense to move Conner back to a more natural safety role, but the coaches love him at the nickelback or “Husky” position, where he was named second-team All-SEC by the AP last year. Conner is more physical than most defensive backs, which makes him great in run support. He led the Rebels last year with nine tackles for loss. But he still has the ability to cover, too. Most forget that on his first college play, he came down with an interception.

[+] EnlargeVernon Hargreaves
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsVernon Hargreaves III became one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC from the moment he walked on the Florida campus.

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida, Jr.: There’s not a better cornerback in the SEC and there might not be a better one in the country. Hargreaves has finished among the conference leaders in passes broken up the last two seasons, and that’s with most quarterbacks opting not to throw in his direction. The All-SEC first-team selection will likely get more of that same treatment this fall, but it won’t be easy with Jalen Tabor emerging at the other cornerback spot and Brian Poole (see below) manning the nickelback position.

Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn, Jr.: Auburn’s secondary took a lot of heat for its awful play late last season and rightfully so, but without Jones, it could’ve been much worse. The junior finished with 12 pass break-ups, one shy of the SEC lead, and was second in the conference with six interceptions. Given the lack of a pass rush, those numbers are remarkable. This season, it should be easier for Jones with Will Muschamp as the new defensive coordinator and top pass-rusher Carl Lawson returning from injury.

Jalen Mills, S, LSU, Sr.: It shouldn’t come as a shock that LSU has arguably the league’s best safety, but it was a mild surprise when Mills opted to return for his senior year. Sure, 2014 was a down year for Mills, who finished with just one interception and no sacks, but the talent was still there. Some have already tabbed him as a first-round pick in 2016. For now, the former cornerback-turned-safety will be asked to take on a bigger role in the LSU secondary with the departures of Jalen Collins and Ronald Martin.

Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee, Jr.: Sutton emerged on the scene as a freshman, doing a little bit of everything for the Volunteers’ defense, and he followed that up with a sensational sophomore campaign. The former three-star recruit started all 13 games, finished tied for the SEC lead with 13 pass break-ups and returned a punt for a touchdown in the victory over in-state rival Vanderbilt. If Sutton continues on the path he’s on now, it won’t be long before he’s considered one of the best defensive backs in college football.

Five more to watch

Best of the SEC: Front seven

March, 27, 2015
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OK, so we've gone over the fun and flashy offensive skill guys who put folks in the seats, and we've talked about the big uglies who protect those valuable commodities. Now, it's time to talk about the guys up front on the other side who want to make their offensive counterparts miserable.

As we continue to look at the best players in the SEC at different positions, we're checking out the SEC's best front-seven members. This league has always hung its hat on great defensive line play, and this season shouldn't be any different. And those linebackers ain't so bad either.

Here are the top players in the front seven in alphabetical order:

Defensive line

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, So.

Tennessee had no problem playing a lot of freshmen last season, and it's a good thing the coaches decided to put Barnett on the field. The 6-foot-3, 268-pound punishing pass-rusher dominated up front for most of the 2014 season, finishing the year tied for fourth in the SEC in sacks (11) and second in tackles for loss (20.5). He set record-breaking numbers for a freshman at Tennessee, and the scary thing is he'll be older and wiser in 2015.

[+] EnlargeGarrett
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsTexas A&M's Myles Garrett posted 11.5 sacks as a freshman, but only three of them came in SEC play.

Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, So.

Another fabulous freshman, Garrett led the Aggies in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (14). He also had 53 tackles and 10 quarterback hurries. However, there is a bit of a knock on Garrett and that's the fact he only had three sacks in conference play. That's a legitimate gripe, but if you go back and watch tape, Garrett missed a handful of sacks in SEC play. It's not like he took plays off. He was still a valuable force off the edge for A&M, but he didn't always finish what he started. Expect that to change from the physical freak.

Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss, Jr.

Defensive tackle isn't a glamorous position, but it is very important for any defense to be successful. Nkemdiche didn't have flashy stats last season (he only had two sacks and four tackles for loss), but it was tough to find a more disruptive interior lineman in 2014. The ultra athletic Nkemdiche flew around opposing backfields and directed a lot of plays to others. That's what makes him so special. He might not make the play, but he'll make sure someone does by forcing the offense to change direction, and he collapses the pocket with ease.

A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama, Jr.

The future NFL defensive lineman can play both nose guard and defensive end in Alabama's 3-4 defensive scheme. He's another guy who didn't wow you with his stats last season, but he was incredibly disruptive up front. He only had 6.5 tackles for loss last season, but had 49 tackles and really started to kick things into gear during the final stretch of the season. Robinson's ability to play multiple positions up front makes him that much more valuable for Alabama.

Linebacker

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri, RSr.

Brothers led Missouri and ranked second in the SEC in total tackles (122) last season, averaging 8.7 tackles per game. He also tied for second in the league with 64 solo stops. The Will linebacker was even better in conference play, averaging 9.8 tackles per game. Brothers also had eight or more tackles in eight games last year and hit double-digit tackle numbers in six of those games. Brothers makes sure he's in or around every play, as he's totaled nearly 200 tackles in the past two seasons combined.

Carl Lawson, LB/DE, Auburn, RSo.

He might have missed all of the 2014 season with an ACL injury, but Lawson has a chance to be a very special player in Auburn's new Will Muschamp-coached defense. Especially when you think about him playing that hybrid linebacker/defensive end position that Muschamp covets. As a freshman, Lawson registered 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Lawson, who was the nation's No. 2 defensive end coming out of high school in 2013, has to be excited after watching film of Muschamp's last hybrid star Dante Fowler Jr., who had 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss at Florida last season.

Reggie Ragland, Alabama, Sr.

The All-SEC selection could have dipped out early for the NFL, but decided to come back to Tuscaloosa, which is great news for the Crimson Tide. Ragland made a ton of plays all over the field for the Tide last season, ranking second on the team with 95 tackles. Forty-five of his tackles were solo, and he also had 10.5 tackles for loss. Ragland is the kind of linebacker who really challenges the offense to direct plays away from him, and he can cover so much ground with his speed and athleticism.

More to watch

IMG Academy will play host to the loaded Southeast Regional 7-on-7 this weekend. Top 7-on-7 teams such as the South Florida Express, Florida Fire and Pro Impact will field teams that feature some of the top prospects in the region, including more than two dozen ESPN Junior 300 prospects.

Here are five things to watch headed into the weekend.


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LSU pro day preview

March, 27, 2015
Mar 27
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Dozens of NFL scouts and coaches will descend on LSU’s football facility Friday to watch more than 20 former Tigers participate in the program’s annual pro day.

Here's a breakdown:

Watch it live: The SEC Network will televise the workouts from 1-3 p.m. ET. It will also be available on the WatchESPN app and on SEC Network+. SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy will provide live reports and interviews, while Dari Nowkhah, former LSU star Marcus Spears and NFL draft analyst Kevin Weidl will offer in-studio analysis.

LSU’s official site will provide updates from the players’ performances at lsusports.net/proday.

[+] EnlargeMike Hilton
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsTerrence Magee would boost his draft stock with a good 40 time.

Headliners: Offensive tackle La'el Collins and cornerback Jalen Collins are the Tigers’ top two draft prospects. ESPN Scouts Inc. ranks La’El Collins 28th and Jalen Collins 29th on its list of the top 32 prospects in the upcoming draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. lists them 17th and 24th, respectively, on his Big Board and had both players getting selected in the first 20 picks in his most recent mock draft.

Jalen Collins is not expected to participate in pro day after undergoing recent foot surgery. However, he seemed to solidify his spot among the top cornerbacks with his buzzworthy performance at the NFL scouting combine last month. He ran a stellar 4.48-second time in the 40-yard dash, finished among the top handful of cornerbacks in several other drills and performed exceptionally in the positional drills. At 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, his size is also a great asset considering how many NFL clubs like big corners.

La’el Collins also helped his cause in Indianapolis. He performed well in the workouts and showed out in the positional drills, which could help him become LSU’s first offensive lineman picked in the first round since Alan Faneca in 1998.

Other top Tigers: Defensive end Danielle Hunter and linebacker Kwon Alexander are LSU’s other candidates to become early-round selections.

At the combine, Hunter posted the fastest time among defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash, 4.57 seconds. Alexander was second among linebackers with a 4.55 time in the 40. Their speed and athleticism help both players rank among the better prospects at their positions.

This week, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranked Hunter eighth among defensive ends and Alexander 10th among outside linebackers. ESPN Scouts Inc. lists Alexander as its No. 53 overall prospect and Hunter at No. 77.

Friday’s storylines: The 40 times of LSU running backs Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard will be among the big storylines at pro day. Both players participated in the combine, but Magee didn’t run the 40 and Hilliard posted a disappointing official time of 4.83 seconds.

Scouts Inc. lists Magee as the No. 13 running back and No. 147 overall prospect, so he seems likely to be selected somewhere in a draft with 256 total picks -- and he can help by showcasing his versatility and posting a respectable 40 time at pro day. Hilliard is listed as the No. 29 running back and No. 286 overall prospect. He could use a productive pro day in order to solidify a shot as a free agent, even if he doesn’t become a late-round draft pick.

Multiple pro day participants will be in Hilliard’s position Friday. Only five of them seem to be surefire draft picks, but several could become undrafted free agents. Among the Tigers who didn’t earn combine invites but should have a chance to sign as undrafted free agents – if they don’t become late-round picks – are fullback Connor Neighbors (Scouts Inc.’s No. 2 prospect at his position), All-SEC safety Ronald Martin and defensive end Jermauria Rasco.

Participants: Eighteen members of LSU’s 2014 team are scheduled to participate: Alexander, receiver Luke Boyd, La’el Collins, offensive lineman Fehoko Fanaika, tight end Jake Franklin, Hilliard, Hunter, receiver Chris LaBorde, receiver Jeff Lang, receiver Quantavius Leslie, Magee, Martin, Neighbors, center Elliott Porter, Rasco, tight end Logan Stokes, offensive lineman Evan Washington and linebacker D.J. Welter.

In addition, four former Tigers -- fullback J.C. Copeland, offensive lineman Chris Faulk, linebacker Karnell Hatcher and linebacker Tahj Jones -- are schedule to participate.

Schedule: Pro day begins at 11:30 a.m. ET in LSU’s weight room. The players will first participate in vertical jump, broad jump and bench press then. At 1 p.m., they will move into the indoor practice facility to complete the 40-yard dash and shuttle runs. At about 2:15 p.m. they will begin individual workouts with NFL coaches by position (passing session at 2:15, running backs at 2:40, tight ends at 3, offensive line at 3:15, defensive backs at 3:35, linebackers at 3:55 and defensive line at 4:10).

NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Cam Cameron apparently didn't take it easy on LSU's defensive players at the start of spring practice while that group adjusted to new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's adjustments.

But as the Tigers passed the midway point of the spring -- today's afternoon practice will be their ninth out of 15 on the schedule -- Steele's new terminology and checks were no longer so confusing.

"Everything is starting to finally click in and everything's moving faster," linebacker Duke Riley said last week. "At first it was slow for the first couple days. But now everything just started to move fast and it's going real good."

That's a far cry from the first week or so, which senior safety Jalen Mills called "frustrating" because Cameron, LSU's offensive coordinator, was throwing the kitchen sink at the defenders and forcing them to adjust.

"I hate not knowing, because now we have Coach Cam, knowing that we have a new defense, he's throwing all type of formations at us and all different types of motions and we have to make all types of checks," Mills said shortly after the start of spring practice. "I just want to be the guy, since I am a vet, to know everything, so I kind of put that pressure on myself."

Of course it's Cameron's job to test the defensive players, especially during spring practice after a coordinator change. The best way to prepare them for the high-pressure scenarios that will arrive in the fall is to put them through the ringer now.

It's apparently helping accelerate their progress.

"Cam, he's bringing all he can at us," Riley said. "We're adjusting to him and doing what we can. Everything's going good. Everything's clicking."

Not that Steele completely remade the defensive scheme from what predecessor John Chavis ran over the previous six seasons. LSU's players said things haven't changed considerably, but any new coordinator will bring a handful of new wrinkles.

"The real big thing with that was just the terminology: the new terms and stuff like that," sophomore linebacker C.J. Garrett said. "But for the most part, a lot of the scheme is based off of the same thing. It's definitely some new stuff in there, but it was really the terminology that I had to get down."

Unlike Mills, who is entering his fourth season as a starter, Garrett didn't have many old habits to break from the previous defensive scheme. He said he struggled throughout his freshman season to grasp his role in Chavis' defense, which is not unusual for a freshman who was accustomed to playing a relatively simple role in high school.

"When I was in high school, the plays I had, I had a little packet that big and I learned it in one day and I was done. Didn't look at it the rest of the year," Garrett said. "So that was something new that I had to learn -- learn how to watch film, learn how to go over my plays and actually understand it."

Understanding it is the goal this spring as they adjust to what Steele will ask of them this fall. And they seem to be progressing nicely, as LSU coach Les Miles said after last Saturday's scrimmage that, "I thought [the defense] had the better of the day."

Steele's defense has more than five months before it has to be game-ready, so there is still plenty of time to get things exactly right. But the Tigers seem to feel confident about the direction they are heading.

"Everybody's just got to get together and study," linebacker Kendell Beckwith said. "We've got to study together and then study individually and we'll get it."

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