BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU defensive end Justin Thomas has left the Tigers for the second time since the middle of last season, coach Ed Orgeron said Tuesday.
“We wish him the best,” Orgeron said, without going into detail, during his first video conference since August camp formally opened on Monday. “It’s unfortunate, but he will not be with us.”
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound junior from Daphne, Alabama, played in four games last season for LSU’s national title squad and had one sack in a victory at Vanderbilt. He made or assisted on eight tackles in all before leaving the team in October because of what LSU described as personal reasons.
Thomas returned to the team in February, about a month after the Tigers had won the 2019 national championship, and was expected to be in the mix for regular playing time.
Orgeron’s announcement on Thomas comes one day after senior cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. informed the team he would opt out this season and start training on his own for next year’s NFL draft. And one week ago, another LSU defensive end, Neil Farrell Jr., also opted out.
Orgeron listed seniors Andre Anthony and Travez Moore as front-runners to start at defensive end if there is a season.
“Those guys are doing phenomenal,” Orgeron said. “On the defensive line, we have a lot of depth. We can rotate those guys.”
After fielding a 3-4 defensive front under former coordinator Dave Aranda in recent seasons, the Tigers have switched to a 4-3 under Bo Pelini, who this season begins his second stint as LSU defensive coordinator.
LSU is still expected to have a strong secondary. LSU’s top cornerback, Derek Stingley Jr., who was an AP All-American as a freshman, is back. Candidates to start in place of Vincent include sophomore Cordale Flot or freshman Eli Ricks, who was one of the headliners of the Tigers’ past recruiting class.
During an appearance on ESPN radio in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, Orgeron described Vincent’s reasons for leaving as “very legit,” saying it was a combination of his family’s medical history and the player’s own professional aspirations.
“Kary Vincent did a great job for us,” Orgeron said. “He won a national championship (and) went out the right way.”