Posted on: January 13, 2012 6:16 pm
While the two "other" SEC teams that finished among the AP Poll's top five lost a combined seven underclassmen to the NFL, the Arkansas Razorbacks didn't appear to lose any.
That fact was in contention until Friday when junior quarterback Tyler Wilson announced via a press release distributed by the school that he is returning for his senior campaign.
“I have decided to stay at Arkansas for the 2012 season because I am extremely excited for what this team has the opportunity to accomplish and to finish earning my degree," said Wilson in the release. "After the feedback I received, the decision was difficult to make. Ultimately, the chance to complete my academics and play one more season as a Razorback were compelling reasons for me to remain in Fayetteville. This past year was great for us with 11 wins and a top-five finish and we want to build on that. The group of players we have returning has high expectations and wants to work hard to compete for championships. Although my goal is to play in the NFL, I believe I can benefit greatly from another year of working with Coach (Bobby) Petrino and Coach Paul Petrino. I am excited to be able to spend one more season at a university where the leadership shows a tremendous amount of support and the passion of the fans is the best in the country.”
There had been considerable buzz in the scouting community that Wilson strongly considered making the jump after receiving positive feedback from the NFL Advisory Committee. Though Wilson did not share what grade he received, it isn't difficult to understand why scouts would have been high on him.
Wilson led the SEC with 3,638 passing yards and threw 21 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Listed by Arkansas at 6-3, 220 pounds and possessing a nice combination of mobility, arm strength and accuracy, the redshirt junior is ranked fifth on NFLDraftScout.com's rankings of 2013 quarterbacks. Ranking fifth might seem like a slight to some but considering that Wilson has only one full season as the starter and is playing in an offense known to inflate quarterback production it is difficult to argue that he should be ranked ahead of Southern Cal's Matt Barkley, Oklahoma's Landry Jones or Florida State's E.J. Manuel -- each of whom possess either more impressive physical skills, greater experience or both.
Wilson is making the right choice in returning to the Razorbacks for his senior season. Not only does his return put Arkansas in position for a BCS title run next season, he's likely to boost his own stock in the eyes of scouts, as well.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:17 am
Edited on: January 13, 2012 9:20 am
The fact that LSU only passed for 53 yards in the BCS Championship game certainly is slowing down their receivers from making the early jump to the NFL.
According to multiple reports LSU junior Rueben Randle will be joining teammates Morris Claiborne, Michael Brockers and fellow receiver Russell Shepard as an early entrant into the 2012 NFL draft.
The news was first reported by TigerSportsDigest.com, which claimed that Randle's decision was made over a family dinner Wednesday and that the papers to be filed with the NFL were sent in Thursday.
While Shepard's decision is a bit puzzling, Randle's jump to the pros had been anticpated. Listed by the official website for LSU athletics at 6-4, 208 pounds, Randle was the Tigers' most productive receiver in 2011. He led the team in catches (53), receiving yards (917), average yards per catch (17.3) and receiving touchdowns (eight) and garnered First Team All-SEC accolades from the conference coaches.
He leaves LSU having started 24 of a possible 39 games and with 94 catches for 1,621 yards and 13 touchdowns over his career.
Though Randle was limited by sticky coverage from Alabama's 'Dre Kirkpatrick throughout much of the team's two battles in 2011 (combined five catches for 32 yards), ironically enough it was Randle's a three-catch, 125 yard effort against the Tide in 2010 that served as his "breakout game." Randle scored a 75 yard touchdown in that contest, the longest of his career. Kirkpatrick was one of three Alabama juniors to announce that they too are leaving the SEC early for the NFL.
Due largely to his rare combination of size and speed, Randle is currently ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 6 receiver for the 2012 draft with a second round grade.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 10:24 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:36 pm
Southern Illinois running back Jewel Hampton is taking advantage of a breakout 2011 campaign in which he led the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 17 touchdowns and 1,121 rushing yards to put his name into the NFL lottery.
The news was broken not by Hampton nor Southern Illinois but by a release from St.Vincent Sports Performance, a Pre-Combine Training group with which Hampton apparently will be working with in preparation for NFL testing. Hampton's name was among 15 prospects St. Vincent listed as having signed with the group for 2012. Most notable among were two other juniors -- former Oregon cornerback and return specialist Cliff Harris and San Diego State star running back Ronnie Hillman.
Hampton transferred to SIU 2011 after being a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes for the past three seasons. Hampton played very well as a true freshman for the Hawkeyes, emerging as Shonn Greene's primary backup and actually setting the school record for first year players with seven rushing touchdowns (along with 463 yards). Expected to take over for Greene in 2009, Hampton instead tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and took a medical redshirt. After a successful rehabilitation, Hampton once again appear poised to compete for big playing time for the Hawkeyes in 2010 but tragically suffered another torn ACL, this time to his left knee.
The loss of back to back seasons due to injury convinced Hampton that a change of scenery was best and he transferred to the Salukis.
He rushed for over 100 yards six times in 2011 and added 163 receiving yards to finish fourth in the MVFC in all-purpose yardage and was named the conference's Newcomer of the Year.
Hampton's path from BCS to FCS is hardly a new one. In fact, the last Saluki to be named the conference's Newcomer of the Year also transferred from a prominent BCS school.
Brandon Jacobs had played behind Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams at Auburn but elected to transfer for his senior season to get a greater opportunity at seeing the field. Jacobs, by comparison, ran for 992 yards and 19 scores for the Salukis in 2004. The New York Giants drafted him in the fourth round (No. 110 overall).
The 5-09, 210 pound Hampton is no Jacobs (6-4, 260) clone but does possess some of the skills to catch the attention of NFL scouts. Hampton is quick to the hole and shows good lateral agility. Due to his low center of gravity and determined running, Hampton is a surprisingly stout load to bring to the ground.
Hampton is currently ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 29 running back in the 2013 class. Considering his injuries and the fact the running back class is shaping up to be 2012's deepest position, Hampton may only get late round or even free agent consideration. Jewel, however, does have enough shine to get an extended look.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 5:45 pm
Earlier today the LSU Tigers announced that junior cornerback Morris Claiborne would be heading off to the NFL.
A little later, another junior -- wideout Russell Shepard -- made the surprising decision to join him.
Les Miles' chances at the Tigers winning the SEC again in 2012 was made significantly more difficult with the news that yet another LSU player is finishing his collegiate career early and heading off to the pros.
Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Michael Brockers is also making the jump. He told the assembled media during his press conference Thursday that he'd received feedback that he'd be a late first round to early second round pick.
"I heard my progression and my physical build would put me high in the draft," Brockers said. "You only get this opportunity once, so I wanted to take advantage of it."
"I was focused on winning a national championship," Brockers said. "After the game was over, we lost and it was a nasty taste in my mouth, but I can move on from that and focus on the future…It was a family decision. We came together and we thought about the pros and cons about every situation. We just thought about every detail and this is the conclusion we came up with."
Brockers signed with LSU as a 250 pound defensive end. He's grown into a 6-6, 306 pound monster for the Tigers and earned Second Team All-SEC pick in 2011, recording 54 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and blocked a field goal against Alabama in Monday's BCS Championship loss.
Brockers' strength and length make him an ideal candidate to return to defensive end for a 3-4 club. His power, quickness and growing frame are sure to intrigue 4-3 teams, as well. It is this versatility and Brockers' obvious upside that had him rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 defensive tackle in the class of 2014. Though he'll be joining a talented group of defensive linemen in the 2012 draft and certainly could have improved his stock with two more years of collegiate eligibility, don't think NFL scouts will mourn his decision to enter the league early. Brockers, after all, was as impressive as any LSU Tiger in the BCS Championship game (seven tackles, tackle for loss, blocked kick) and appears to be just scratching the surface of his significant potential.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 3:46 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 3:49 pm
All-Americans running back Trent Richardson and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick announced they will be forgoing their final year of eligibility at Alabama and entering the 2012 NFL Draft. Both were part of a pair of national championship teams in three years in Tuscaloosa.
Tidesports.com reported that linebacker junior Dont'a Hightower will also leave the Crimson Tide.
The 5-foot-11, 224-pound Richardson was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back in 2011 after setting a single-season school record with 1,679 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He broke the record set by 2010 first-round pick Mark Ingram, and is the top-rated running back prospect by NFLDraftScout.com and the No. 7 overall prospect.
Richardson is a powerful inside runner who presses the line of scrimmage and has surprising speed for his relatively short, thick frame. A tough runner who will initiate contact, Richardson is widely expected to be the first running back selected in April. NFLDraftScout.com analysts Rob Rang and Dane Brugler both currently have Richardson going fifth overall to Tampa Bay.
"I am going to leave here and try to represent Alabama in a Class A way," Richardson said.
Kirkpatrick is the No. 2-rated cornerback by NFLDraftScout.com, behind only LSU's Morris Claiborne, who also announced Thursday that he's leaving after his junior season. Kirkpatrick is the No. 10 overall prospect, with Rang having him going seventh to Jacksonville and Brugler predicting him to go No. 6 overall to Washington.
"It was a blessing to have an opportunity for (Alabama) to open their doors the way they did to me and my family," Kirkpatrick said. "This is a family decision, and I am going to be leaving, going to the NFL, to try to better myself and better my talent."
Kirkpatrick had 30 tackles and nine pass breakups in 2011 possesses. He has excellent height and athleticism at 6-2, 192 to be a potential shutdown corner in the NFL. He has the long arms to be effective as a press corner and good recovery speed. He's not as experienced in zone coverage, but has shown the instincts to read the quarterback and break on the ball. Kirkpatrick is also noted for his physicality and willingness as a blocker in the ground game.
"We are 100 percent supportive of both of these young men in terms of what their choice is and what they choose to do," coach Nick Saban said of Richardson and Kirkpatrick. "They've been great ambassadors, great representatives for the University of Alabama as people, students and football players."
Hightower, who was not at the press conference, is also a potential first-round pick. He is the No. 2 inside linebacker according to NFLDraftScout.com, behind only Boston College's Luke Kuechly. A redshirt junior, he spent four years at Alabama and is the No. 26 rated prospect overall. He had 85 tackles, including 11 for loss, four sacks and an interception this season.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:45 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 2:44 pm
With the two most talented teams in the country not playing their final game until Monday night, scouts expected to see a late flurry of underclassmen from Alabama and LSU announce their NFL decisions this week. The deadline for early entry into the 2012 draft, after all, is Sunday.
"Thanks for your support Tiger Nation...but I have to do what's best for my family and myself...Geaux Tigers," served as Shephard's Twitter announcement that he's heading off to the NFL.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 2:28 pm
Toledo wide receiver Eric Page is forgoing his final year of eligibility and entering the 2012 NFL Draft.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 5:02 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2012 5:13 pm
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III officially announced he will forgo his final year of eligibility at Baylor and enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
Griffin, the No. 3 overall prospect eligible for April's draft by NFLDraftScout.com, met with seven sports agencies and then again with Baylor coach Art Briles as he weighed the decision of whether to return to the Bears for his senior season or enter the draft.
"It was a tough decision, I love the people at this university, love my coach for giving me a chance to be a quarterback," Griffin said.
Ranked second among quarterbacks in the draft class, behind only Stanford redshirt junior Andrew Luck, Griffin is likely to be a top-10 pick. Some project he could be drafted even earlier with multiple quarterback-needy teams, including Cleveland (fourth overall) and Washington (sixth) likely to look for upgrades at the position.
Rob Rang and Dane Brugler both have Griffin going to Cleveland in their current Mock Drafts, and Browns coach Pat Shurmur declined last week to say Colt McCoy will be the team's starting quarterback in 2012.
The deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft is Sunday and, until he signs with an agent, Griffin is permitted to return to Baylor if he withdraws by the Jan. 15 deadline.
Griffin met with prospective agents with Baylor compliance officers present to ensure he wasn't sacrificing his eligibility should he opt to return to college football. He first had his parents, both Army sergeants, interview agents and provide him feedback. But in the end, the choice was clear.
Griffin, 6-2, 220, earned his bachelor's degree a year ago after graduating high school a semester early to enroll in January 2008. He's on pace to earn his masters in communication in May and is engaged to be married.
There are no character-related questions with Griffin, who said he arrived at Baylor with the NFL as a Plan B.
"Plan B can overtake Plan A if they come knocking at your door," he said recently. "Who are you to turn down the NFL."
Indeed, a lot changed for Griffin in the span of one season. At this time last year, he said he received feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board that he was likely to be a second- or third-round pick. In a loaded quarterback class that included five quarterbacks in the top 35 selections, Griffin might have been overlooked.
That won't happen in 2012.
Luck, the top-rated overall prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, and Griffin are expected to be the only sure first-round picks among quarterbacks. Some might include Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, but his raw skills after just two years at the position make him more of a risk.
The injury risk had to be a consideration for Griffin, who missed most of the 2009 season with a knee injury.
After throwing for more than 4,000 yards with 37 touchdowns and only six interceptions, Griffin has opened many eyes. He also had 699 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Former Colts head coach Tony Dungy is on the record that he might even draft Griffin, not Luck, with the first overall pick. He won't be the only one with that opinion, regardless of how flawless the Stanford redshirt junior has been and scouting reports will be in April.
Griffin isn't without some concerns with evaluators, who want to verify his height and weight before projecting him as a franchise quarterback. On appearances alone, there are scouts who are concerned Griffin doesn't have the sturdy build to withstand the rigors of taking pounding in and outside of the pocket in the NFL.
But like Cam Newton in 2011, about whom there were concerns he could throw accurately in an NFL-style offense, it's also worth considering whether Griffin has a reasonable facsimile in the NFL.
Hugh Millen, who played quarterback for 10 seasons in the NFL, was on the field for pregame activities at the Alamo Bowl, and told NFLDraftScout.com's Len Pasquarelli that those with doubts about the size of "RG3" needn't worry.
"I stood next to him and the guy is all of 6-2," said Millen, who is 6-feet-5. "I watched him in warmups without pads, and he's better built than people give him credit for. From a size standpoint, I really didn't feel there were any concerns."
The Heisman Trophy winner is listed by Baylor at 6-feet-2, but there had been a few questions about how Griffin would measure up at the combine.
Griffin said he patterns his game after Steve Young -- a mobile quarterback who thrives on efficiency -- but can't help but see the comparison many have drawn between 2011 No. 1 overall pick Newton and Griffin.
Griffin owns 46 Baylor records, and in 41 games completed 67 percent of his passes (800 of 1,192) for 10,366 yards with 78 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He had 33 rushing touchdowns and 2,254 yards.