ATHENS, Ga. ----- Georgia junior safety Terreal Bierria surprised everyone by announcing Thursday he has decided to enter the NFL draft.
Bierria finished third on the team with 75 tackles. He did not intercept a pass this season but recovered three fumbles, leading the defense in that category.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bierria has good size for a free safety but he likely will have to make a strong impression in the NFL combine to be anything but a late draft pick. He was not listed in Mel Kiper's recent list of junior defensive backs who might enter the draft.
Bierria was bothered by back spasms late in the season. The injury kept him from starting the Music City Bowl game against Boston College and might have played a factor in his decision to enter the draft.
As a junior, Bierria recorded career-high totals of 83 tackles and three interceptions. He did not start the 2001 season opener against Arkansas State due to disciplinary reasons, but he did play in the game and he started the remaining 10 games of the regular season.
Bierria joins defensive end Charles Grant and tight end Randy McMichael as Georgia juniors who have declared themselves eligible for the draft. Grant and McMichael were not surprise draft entries, as was Bierria, however.
"Only time will tell if any or all of these players made the right decision,'' said Georgia head coach Mark Richt in a statement released by the school. "However, they have made the decision and we'll support them as they go forward. Certainly, we wish the best for all of them.''
Meanwhile, Georgia announced Thursday that Dantra Clements, a third-year sophomore cornerback, is transferring to Valdosta State.
Clements started against Kentucky this season when Georgia opened with five defensive backs, but he recorded only eight tackles for the season in mostly limited playing time.
With Bruce Thornton returning after starting nine games in 2001, Kenny Bailey moving to cornerback from tailback and Decory Bryant making a strong late showing at cornerback, Clements apparently decided he did not figure into the team's immediate plans for the position.
With senior Tim Wansley out with an injury, Bryant and Thornton were the starting cornerbacks in the Music City Bowl. Other top returning players at cornerback are Brandon Williams and Ryan Davis.
The departure of Bierria means Georgia also will have two new starting safeties next season. Senior rover Jermaine Phillips is expected to be one of the first Georgia players picked in the NFL draft.
Sean Jones entered the bowl game as Phillips' top backup, while Kentrell Curry was listed behind Bierria. Curry received increased playing time late in the season and finished with 22 tackles. He recorded five tackles while starting for Bierria against Boston College.
Photo Caption: 14 Oct 2000: Terreal Bierria #15 of the Georgia Bulldogs tackles Elliott Carson #80 of the Vanderbilt Commodores during the game at the Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. The Bulldogs defeated the Commodores 29-19. Mandatory Credit: Chris Stanford /Allsport