Arian faces big decision

The bad news for Tennessee football fans is that linebacker Jerod Mayo is expected to bypass his senior year in favor of the NFL Draft. The worse news: He may not be alone.

Junior running back Arian Foster is mulling a jump to the pros after receiving a second-round grade from the NFL. That news comes from an unimpeachable source … his mom.

Bernadette Foster, who regularly contributes to this site as FosterMom, posted an item slugged "NFL evaluation" on our VolChat message board that is short and to the point:

"Arian got his back from the NFL scouts. They said 2nd round. No decisions have been made as of yet."

Tennessee fans won't like hearing this, but Foster probably is better suited to the pro game than he is to the college game. At 6-1 and 225 pounds, he has the size NFL clubs prize. He's big enough to run between the tackles and physical enough to do a good job in pass protection. He also has the hands to excel in a West Coast offense that requires its backs to catch a lot of passes.

After an injury-plagued sophomore season in 2006, Foster proved just how productive and versatile he can be during a healthy 2007 season.

He led the team with 1,193 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He ranked fifth on the team with 39 catches for 340 yards and two more touchdowns, averaging 8.7 per reception. He also returned thee kickoffs for 117 yards, a whopping 39.0 average.

One of the knocks on Foster is that he lacks the breakaway speed to be a big-play threat. That's a tough case to make, however, since he had a 59-yard scrimmage run, a 65-yard pass reception and a 68-yard kickoff return during the just-ended season.

In addition to Mayo and Foster, junior guard Anthony Parker and junior punter Britton Colquitt also requested evaluations from the NFL Advisory Committee. Colquitt has since announced that he plans to return for his senior season of college ball. Parker's intentions remain unclear.

Mayo said last month that he was "real neutral" about the decision to return to UT or turn pro, adding: "I love Tennessee. I love being here. I'm just going to get my grade back and talk to my family, see what I'm going to do at the end of the season."

Mayo and his family recently met with UT head coach Phillip Fulmer. Since then, there have been persistent reports that the 6-2, 230-pounder is leaning toward the NFL.

Mayo led all Southeastern Conference players in tackles (140) in 2007, proving his versatility by playing both middle linebacker and weakside linebacker. He already completed his degree in sport management and is rated one of the top four linebacker prospects by NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper.

College underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the 2008 draft.

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