Prospects look good for Juniors to Return

ATHENS - Georgia's prospects for the 2004 season may have gotten a boost in the last week with a change of heart by defensive end <b>David Pollack</b>.

David Pollack is considering skipping his senior season and entering the 2004 NFL Draft, and it is believed he was leaning heavily toward leaving until last week.

"I thought I had my mind made up pretty much, but then I kind of changed it," he said.

Quarterback David Greene, Pollack's roommate, said he doesn't badger Pollack about his decision but has sensed a changed of heart.

"Until three or four days ago, I pretty much knew what he was doing," Greene said. "Now I have no idea."

Pollack wouldn't confirm if he had decided to leave.

He spoke about his future Wednesday, as Georgia returned to the practice field to begin bowl preparations. The No. 11 Bulldogs (10-3) play No. 12 Purdue (9-3) in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 1.

Georgia could lose several juniors to the NFL this season, but Pollack and All-America safety Sean Jones appear the most likely to leave with eligibility to spare. Wide receiver Fred Gibson said Wednesday he has decided to remain at Georgia for his final year.

Last year, the Bulldogs lost defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, running back Musa Smith and linebacker Chris Clemons early.

Coach Mark Richt has already talked twice to all the team's juniors about their upcoming decision, he said. The first meeting took place in midseason, a first for Richt.

"You have to be proactive," he said. "They know we love them and they know we want them to stay"

Richt met with the players again when the regular season was over. Jones said Richt promised next year's seniors they won't have to do as many of the team's famous "mat drills" this offseason and will get a break from spring practice conditioning.

"I don't particularly like talking about it," Richt said, "but I think they're excited about what could happen in their senior year."

The Bulldogs probably will be ranked in the nation's top five in next year's preseason polls if all their juniors decide to return. Pollack's decision probably will get the most national attention because of his name recognition.

He earned All-America status after his sophomore season and was a first-team All-SEC selection this year even though he had a far worse year statistically. He has 85 tackles and 4.5 sacks, 10 fewer than last year when he set the school record.

Pollack said he has heard he will be a first-round pick if he leaves this year.

"It's a tough decision. It's your future," he said. "A lot of people think you leave for money, but that's not the sole decision. It's not easy. It's a stressful situation."

Pollack has no timetable for his decision, he said.

"I don't think I'll decide before the bowl," he said.

Jones thinks he will know before the Bulldogs play Purdue, but he doesn't plan on announcing his decision until 2004, he said. He has applied to the NFL's underclassmen advisory committee for an indication of his draft status but hasn't heard yet.

"I really don't know right now," he said. "It's still up in the air. I think I'll have it in my mind before the bowl game, but I'll keep it in the family. I'll make it known after the bowl game."

Jones has 111 tackles and leads the Bulldogs with five interceptions.

"I think I'm ready for the next level," he said, "but everybody has stuff to work on."

Gibson was expected to have a breakout season this year but was hampered by injuries all season and has just 32 catches for 531 yards. He has been slowed by hamstring, knee and finger injuries. Barring a huge bowl game, this will be the first season in which he hasn't had at least 700 receiving yards.

He admitted Wednesday that before the season he was thinking this might be his last season.

"I think it would benefit me better to come back and finish on a better note," he said. "If I left, I wouldn't be happy. I'm sure. I gave it a lot of thought. I think I'd be really selling myself short if I did leave."

Greene, who has thrown for more yards than any Bulldog through three seasons, will remain at Georgia, he said.

Safety Thomas Davis, a redshirt sophomore, is eligible for this year's draft because his high school class has now been out of school for three years. He is the Bulldogs' leading tackler with 130 and was named first-team All-SEC (Associated Press) and second-team All-America (The Sporting News), but he won't leave, he said.

"My mind has been made up," he said. "I never considering leaving at all."

Davis, in fact, has led the campaign to keep all of the Bulldog juniors in place for one more season.

"Anybody who could leave this year, I just try to encourage them to come back so we can make this run," he said, "go out and try to win that national championship."

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