LSU All-American cornerback Morris Claiborne has decided to leave school a year early to enter the NFL draft, a source told ESPN’s Joe Schad, and junior receiver Russell Shepard will follow him.
LSU has not announced Claiborne’s decision, while Shepard indicated on Twitter that he will not return for his senior season.
LSU has scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon with coach Les Miles.
Claiborne, the third-rated player on ESPN Scouts Inc.’s draft board, led LSU with six interceptions this season and returned one for a touchdown. The winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back also was LSU’s top kickoff returner, averaging 25 yards per return, with one touchdown that went 99 yards.
Claiborne, who is from Shreveport, initially came to LSU expecting to play wide receiver but was quickly converted to defensive back and played in seven games in a reserve role as a true freshman.
He started 12 games as a sophomore opposite 2010 Thorpe Award winner and current Arizona Cardinal Patrick Peterson. With teams often avoiding throwing to Peterson’s side of the field, Claiborne saw a lot of balls come his way and responded with a team-leading five interceptions and also recovered a fumble.
This season, he was part of a defensive backfield that included fellow All-American Tyrann Mathieu. Claiborne’s 11 career interceptions places him in a tie with several other players for sixth all-time at LSU.
Meanwhile, there had been some confusion about whether Shepard would be declaring for the draft or transferring from LSU, but a Tigers teammate told ESPN’s Schad that Shepard informed him of his intention to make himself eligible for the draft.
“Thanks for your support Tiger Nation…but I have to do what’s best for my family and myself…Geaux Tigers,” read Shepard’s Twitter account.
The 6-foot-1 Shepard was a highly recruited quarterback/receiver who never fulfilled his potential in Baton Rouge.
After beginning the season under suspension for breaking an NCAA rule — he discussed with a teammate an ongoing investigation concerning the relationship scouting service provider Willie Lyles had with LSU and other schools — Shepard had only 14 catches for 190 yards and four touchdowns.
Shepard’s career numbers in three seasons are 52 catches for 478 yards and five scores. He also rushed for two touchdowns as a sophomore.
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