Posted by Adam Jacobi
Montee Ball, the standout Wisconsin tailback who tied Barry Sanders' season mark for most total touchdowns this year with 39, may not be off to the NFL quite yet. Ball, who finished fourth in Heisman voting this year, has not announced his plans for next season, and although he's got a touchdown streak of 20 straight games and rushed for 6.4 yards per carry this season, he's not a lock to go pro.
On Wednesday, Ball took to Twitter to (somewhat) clear the air about his status. "Lots of speculation out there, leaning one way but just not ready to make an announcement yet, appreciate everyone's patience," tweeted Ball.
That's a departure from Ball's earlier plans. Even as of late Tuesday night, Ball had told Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal that his announcement date would be Wednesday.
Ball [NFL draft profile] is currently the sixth-rated running back prospect on CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang's Big Board, and the 80th-best prospect overall. That would theoretically place Ball in the middle of the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, but individual NFL teams' valuations of prospects begin to vary widely past the first round, so Ball could end up considerably higher -- or lower -- if he were to declare for the draft.
If Bell were to stay, his monster 2011 season leaves him in prime position to challenge for several NCAA records. He would need 19 total touchdowns to break former Miami University standout Travis Prentice's career recrd of 78 total TDs, and Ball would need 20 rushing touchdowns to top Prentice's mark of 73 career rushing touchdowns. Ball is 11 games with one TD away from breaking Prentice's record of 35 games with scores, and seven multi-score games away from breaking Prentice's mark of 25 games with at least two touchdowns. Yes, Travis Prentice holds basically every major scoring record for running backs in FBS history.
At the same time, the shelf life of tailbacks at the highest levels of football is generally short, and it may not be in Bell's best interests to stay in college and not get an NFL salary while he subjects himself to the wear and tear of being the focal point of a rushing offense for another year. So this is a tough, tough decision on his part, and it's not hard to see why the final call is taking Ball longer than he anticipated.
Will Ball stay or go? Keep up on the latest developments for him and the rest of the Badgers at CBSSports.com's Wisconsin RapidReports page, and check out the rest of the news on early NFL draft entrants here.
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