McCoy: Should He Stay Or Should He Go

The Pitt football team got somewhat of a reprieve Monday night when star tailback LeSean McCoy informed Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt that he was not yet ready to make a final decision on whether he will return to school or declare for this year's NFL Draft.

Sure, the longer LeSean McCoy waits to make his decision, it appears to improve his chances to return to Pittsburgh. Quite frankly, I'm surprised that McCoy is still undecided. That tells me that he really wants to return, but he is being pulled in several different directions by many different people.

Wannstedt has mostly been an information source for McCoy, telling him what to expect if he opts to go to the NFL. McCoy would like a guarantee that he and Pitt would be successful if he returns to the Panthers. Wannstedt can't offer any, but one certainly could speculate that Pitt would be highly-ranked in the preseason and be a favorite to win the Big East title.

It's all just speculation, of course, but that appears to be more likely than McCoy being a top-15 pick in this year's NFL Draft. McCoy has been projected as a late first- to early second-round pick by most scouting services, and he certainly is considered to be among the top running backs in the draft pool.

McCoy has until Thursday to declare for the April draft. Among the running backs who already have entered the draft are Shonn Greene from Iowa, Donald Brown from Connecticut, Chris Wells from Ohio State, Knowshon Moreno from Georgia, P.J. Hill from Wisconsin and Glen Coffee from Alabama.

McCoy's numbers are good. In two seasons at Pitt, he rushed for 2,816 yards and 35 touchdowns. In 2008, he had 1,488 yards and 21 scores on 308 carries to finish 10th in the nation in rushing and tied for second in scoring. McCoy also was the No. 2 receiver for Pitt in 2008 with 32 catches for 305 yards.

He has the intangibles as well and likely will have a successful NFL career. But he is not considered to be among the top two backs -- Moreno and Wells -- and Greene didn't hurt himself with a strong finish this season. There likely will only be a few running backs taken in the first round, and there is a huge difference in guaranteed money between the two early rounds.

The Steelers took former Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall with the 23rd overall pick in the first round last spring, for example, and he signed a five-year contract worth $12.55 million with a $6.83 million signing bonus. Two backs chosen later, Ray Rice from Rutgers and Steve Slaton from West Virginia, didn't get nearly as much money.

Rice, selected in the second round with the 55th overall pick by Baltimore, signed a four-year deal worth $2.805 million with a $1.1 million bonus. Slaton was taken in the third round with the No. 89 pick by Houston, signed a four-year, $2.37 million deal and received a $664,500 signing bonus.

Prior to this delay -- McCoy's second in four days -- everything pointed to the sophomore moving on to the next level in his football career, but he appears to be torn. That's understandable. Everything he said this season directly pointed to a return for his junior season, and Wannstedt also believed he would be back. Both said as much prior to Pitt's bowl game and shortly thereafter.

That's when things changed for McCoy. He has been at his home in Harrisburg, Pa. since the Panthers returned from the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, even though Pitt had a team meeting this past Thursday and classes began the previous Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. McCoy has been home nearly two weeks now.

Wannstedt has warned McCoy that even though the NFL Draft Advisory Board projected him as a first-round pick, that certainly comes with no guarantee. Few teams believed that Mendenhall would be available for the Steelers at No. 23, including the Steelers, but he dropped there. They also had Texas wideout Limas Sweed rated as a late first-rounder, but he dropped to late in the second.

While McCoy has been at home, he has been inundated with information and advice. His family, primarily brother LeRon -- a former NFL receiver -- appear to be nudging him to moving on. Along with the money, a possible injury is a factor. McCoy broke his ankle as a high school senior and had a rough time bouncing back from that.

Wannstedt told him that the NCAA could provide an insurance policy up to $5 million to protect against serious injury. This wouldn't have to be re-paid until McCoy signed an NFL contract. The league put this in place to deter players from turning pro early.

Wannstedt is in Nashville, Tenn. with his staff this week for the American Football Coaches Association Convention and got the call from McCoy. He likely was surprised, but certainly happy to get the semi-good news. Even if it's only delaying the inevitable, it's a glimmer of hope, nonetheless.

This decision is life-changing for McCoy, and he deserves to take his time. That's what Wannstedt advised Monday. McCoy is just 20 years old. He has said that he loves Pitt and playing football there. He loves his teammates, but his family responsibilities and ties are strong as well. If they encouraged him to stay in school, I believe the decision already would have been made.

That's quite a burden for a young man, and it clearly is weighing heavily on him. That's why McCoy delayed his decision. Few associated with Pitt's football program believe he will return, but one never knows. I thought he was all but gone and still has until Thursday to declare for the NFL Draft.

So, McCoy has a couple more days. He deserves to take that time.

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