Dawgs, Cocks feel a draft

The Lord giveth ... and the National Football League Draft taketh away.

Fourteen of the Southeastern Conference's finest gridders have declared for this spring's NFL selection process rather than exhaust their remaining collegiate eligibility. Their departures will have significant impact on the 2009 SEC divisional races.

The two teams hardest hit by NFL defections are Georgia and South Carolina. Each competes in the SEC East and each is losing three key players.

Georgia, in fact, may be saying goodbye to its three BEST players in quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno and defensive back Asher Allen.

Stafford is viewed by most Draft experts as the No. 1 quarterback coming out this year. Moreno is considered the No. 1 or 2 running back, depending on whom you ask. Both project to be taken in the first dozen draft picks. Allen was a starting corner in 2007 and 2008 whose stats would've been better except that opponents generally steered away from him.

South Carolina's defections are less heralded but could be just as damaging to the Gamecocks' hopes of contending for a division title.

Carolina is losing half of its starting secondary in cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Emanuel Cook. Munnerlyn is projected as a possible first-round draft pick. Cook was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the NCAA's top defensive back. The Cocks also will say goodbye to tight end Jared Cook, a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award.

Steve Spurrier can be thankful that linebacker Eric Norwood, a two-time All-SEC pick, changed his mind after originally announcing that he, too, would bypass his senior year in favor of the NFL.

Alabama is suffering a couple of big-time defections, as well. Tackle Andre Smith might have been the NCAA's most dominating offensive lineman last fall. He's projected by some analysts as the first player to be picked in the NFL Draft.

Bama also is bidding adieu to tailback Glen Coffee, who rushed for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns as the centerpiece of a ground-hugging Tide attack last fall.

Auburn is losing a couple of junior standouts, as well, although the bolting of defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and cornerback Jerraud Powers won't create nearly the ripple in Auburn that the departure of Smith and Coffee will in Tuscaloosa.

Florida is losing just one underclassman but he's a marvel. Electrifying receiver/running back Percy Harvin was arguably the most dynamic weapon in college football last season. He rushed 70 times for 660 yards, a mind-boggling 9.4 yards-per-carry average. He also caught 40 passes for 644 yards, averaging 16.1 yards per reception. He converted these 110 touches into 17 touchdowns (10 rushing, 7 receiving), meaning he scored roughly every six times he got his hands on the ball.

LSU is saying goodbye to heralded junior defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. He was supposed to be an even more disruptive force than ex-Tiger Glenn Dorsey, the fifth player picked in the 2008 NFL Draft, but Ricky's college career was hampered by suspensions and injuries.

Although Arkansas will miss tight end Andrew Davie and Vanderbilt will miss cornerback/wideout D.J. Moore, the Razorbacks and Commodores were unlikely to contend for division titles in 2009 even with them.

Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kentucky are not losing any underclassmen to the NFL Draft this year.


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