Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If the nationwide trend this offseason has been for premium-grade junior talent to surprisingly come back to school -- see Andrew Luck, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, etc. -- no one told the SEC.
Just ask Georgia, who over the weekend lost outside linebacker-slash-pass rush specialist Justin Houston to the draft just ahead of the deadline . Houston joins the Bulldogs' A.J. Green in forgoing his senior season in Athens and is projected as a late first-round pick in the latest CBSSports.com mock draft .
For a player custom-made for the NFL's predominant 3-4 defense -- just ask NFL-trained Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, whose 3-4 schemes made Houston a 10-sack terror off the edge, not to mention a Nagurski Trophy finalist -- the decision to come out couldn't have been too difficult. (We won't be surprised if Houston winds up looking like a steal if he does go as late as currently projected.) But it won't make it any easier for Mark Richt or Bulldog fans to stomach; between Houston's departure and the graduation of seniors Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble, Grantham's linebacking unit will have to be almost entirely rebuilt.
Unfortunately for Richt, after the 6-7 disaster of 2010, he may not be able to afford to wait for that rebuilding job to pay dividends. He paid Grantham good money to come to Athens from the Dallas Cowboys, and now Grantham will have to earn it. With major improvement required to keep Richt employed and now neither of the Bulldogs' best players from 2010 available in 2011, there won't be any time to waste.