BATON ROGUE —
LSU leading rusher Jeremy Hill is entering the NFL draft, opening the way for highly rated recruit Leonard Fournette to assume a central role in the Tigers' ground game.
"I am a Tiger for life. I will forever be grateful to my LSU fans, friends, coaches and family. This decision has been very difficult for me," Hill wrote on a social media account that was verified by LSU's chief athletic spokesman Michael Bonnette. "With all of that being said, I have decided to forego my Junior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft."
Hill has played two seasons at LSU and was a major reason the Tigers reached double-digit wins in both of them, leading the team in rushing each year.
Hill rushed for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, including a 216-yard, two-touchdown performance in LSU's 21-14 victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
The Baton Rouge native's college career was delayed one season by criminal charges stemming from his sexual relationship with a girl at his high school, which resulted in a misdemeanor plea and two years' probation. Last spring, he was caught on video punching a fellow LSU student outside a bar, resulting in more charges and a suspension from the team. That led to an additional misdemeanor plea, but a state judge in August allowed him to remain on probation — albeit under a curfew, bar-ban and other restrictions — and LSU coach Les Miles allowed Hill to return to the Tigers for fall practice.
Miles disciplined Hill by not allowing him to play in the season-opener in Dallas against TCU, which LSU won without him. Hill returned in the second game of the season and quickly earned back his starting job.
Hill waited about two weeks after LSU's season ended to make his announcement. Had he decided to come back, the Tigers would have welcomed that, given the departure of senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger and the anticipated departures of top receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, who are both juniors and eligible to enter the draft.
But LSU's running game is expected to be formidable with the arrival of Fournette and the return of Terrence Magee, who rushed for 644 yards and eight TDs on only 86 carries — an average of 7.3 yards per carry.
Fournette, who starred in high school for St. Augustine in New Orleans and was selected Louisiana's 2013 Mr. Football, announced on Jan. 2 he'd attend LSU. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Fournette was widely considered the top high school running back in the country this past fall, and had narrowed his choices to LSU, Alabama and Texas before ultimately announcing his intention to join the Tigers.