A couple of weeks ago I predicted that the first underclassment to declare early for the NFL draft might come from Miami and Southern California. This was not only because of the fact that both programs are consistent producers of talent but also because neither was going to be playing in a bowl game this year.
I anticipated a few 'Canes and Trojans might leave early. Instead, it is quickly proving to be a case of mass exodus from both programs -- which continued on Friday with the news that offensive tackle Brandon Washington and defensive end Olivier Vernon were leaving Miami for the NFL.
They join redshirt sophomore running back Lamar Miller, wide receiver Tommy Streeter and defensive tackle Marcus Forston in former 'Canes leaving Al Golden's program for the NFL since the end of the season.
Southern Cal, likewise has already seen two prospects leave early -- offensive tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry. Quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald are also known to be strongly considering making the leap.
Of the two newest underclassmen leaving Coral Gables, Washington is the more highly regarded pro prospect. The 6-4, 320 pound Washington has starred for the Hurricanes at left tackle and left guard. Though he played well outside at tackle this season, most project him back inside at guard in the NFL. Washington has a short, stock build. He is surprisingly light on his feet and plays with intensity and physicality. The feeling among scouts is that Washington could play outside at the next level, but he could become a Pro Bowl caliber guard.
Washington had previously told members of the media that he was returning to school, explaining that he had not even petitioned the NFL for a grade, was excited about the progress Miami was making and was committed to earning the college degree that no one else in his family had previously attained.
The lure of NFL dollars, however, must have proven too much for Washington. He is currently behind only Stanford's David DeCastro (who also is leaving school early) among NFLDraftScout.com's 2013 guard prospects.
Vernon is a very surprising choice to leave early considering that he was suspended for the first six games of the season due to taking accepting innappropriate benefits from a booster and registered just 18 tackles on the season. The 6-3, 265 pound true junior had flashed earlier in his career, recording 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks a year ago. Vernon has an explosive burst off the snap but still needs a lot of technical work to earn consistent playing time at the pro level. He is viewed as a prospect potentially capable of making the switch to outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, which does help his cause.
At this early point, however, Vernon is only ranked 29th among defensive ends in the 2013 class and thus not even a surely draftable commodity.