LSU announced that it would hold a press conference at 3 p.m. CT Thursday to discuss the futures of junior CB Morris Claiborne and junior WR Russell Shepard, but Shepard already announced that he was entering the 2012 NFL draft on Twitter and Claiborne will do the same, according to ESPN. ESPN reported that a source told the network's Joe Schad that Claiborne will forgo his senior season to enter the 2012 NFL draft.
Claiborne is the more intriguing prospect. He is considered by many to be the top cornerback in the country, and was once part of a dynamic CB duo with current Arizona Cardinals star Patrick Peterson. Claiborne posted 51 tackles, 12 passes defensed, six pass breakups and six interceptions in 2011.
His talents were usually enough to dissuade teams from throwing in his direction, as opponents tended to pick on CB Tyrann Mathieu instead, who as a result, finished with much higher statistics, including 76 tackles and nine pass breakups. Claiborne helped lthe Tigers finish with the second-best scoring defense in the country, as they surrendered just 11.3 points per game.
Claiborne's decision to go pro was no surprise, as he could hardly expect to boost his stock above where it already is. His Twitter post following the Tigers' loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game seemed to hint at his impending departure, as he wrote, "Damn!! Jus like that it's over!! TeamLSU MoMo17!!"
PFW personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki has Claiborne pegged as a top-five pick as a result of his "exceptional speed, great ball skills (and) great athletic ability."
Shepard was far less opaque on Twitter. One day after stating that "I have a hard decision to make....," Shepard announced his decision, saying, "Thanks for your support Tiger Nation...but I have to do what's best for my family and myself...Geaux Tigers."
The former quarterback finished third on the team with 190 receiving yards and finished second on the team with four touchdown catches in 2011. The versatile athlete also ran the ball effectively, finishing with 7.4 yards per carry. Shepard's numbers were hurt by the fact that he missed the first three games of the season as a result of an NCAA violation.