Lost in the frenzy over last week’s coaching carousel was the fact that Friday was the last day for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft.
There were no bombshells like last year when stars such as Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and Taylor Mays announced their return to school. If anything, most of the guys you assumed would turn pro, did turn pro; however, initial fears that the NFL’s impending labor strife might prompt a mass exodus of draft entrants have proven false.
As always, certain teams were hit heavier than others. A few borderline prospects made questionable decisions, and a few have the opportunity to dramatically improve their stock next season. All could have a direct impact on the 2010 college season.
Florida: As if the start of the post-Tim Tebow (and possibly post-Urban Meyer) era wasn’t daunting enough, the Gators lost a season-high five underclass stars — defensive end Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Aaron Hernandez, offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey and safety Major Wright. Of the group, Hernandez (last year’s receptions leader) and Haden (their most important defender) will be toughest to replace.
Georgia Tech: The defending ACC champs had a chance to return a staggering 19 starters, but leading rusher Jonathan Dwyer, leading receiver Demaryius Thomas, second-leading tackler Morgan Burnett and ACC sacks leader Derrick Morgan all turned pro. The Jackets’ running game should be fine with Josh Nesbitt and Anthony Allen, but Thomas was their lone receiving threat, Morgan and Burnett their best defenders.
USC: New coach Lane Kiffin has his work cut out restocking a Trojans offense that lacked the kind of playmakers we’ve become accustomed to in the past. Making matters worse, the two best from last season — receiver Damian Williams and tailback Joe McKnight — both bolted. (So, too, did defensive end Everson Griffen.) Ronald Johnson and Allen Bradford must become the new go-to guys.