"[Early entry] is definitely an option," the fourth-year junior said Saturday after the Commodores fell 38-33 to Tennessee in the season finale. "I'm definitely going to explore my options over the break, and make a decision. But I haven't made any decisions right now."
The NFL allows juniors to receive a confidential evaluation from scouts before making their decision on whether to leave school early to turn pro without jeopardizing their NCAA eligibility. Former Vanderbilt wide receiver Dan Stricker received such an evaluation in 2002, but decided to return to the Commodores for his senior season.
Cutler, whom head coach Bobby Johnson calls "our team's biggest playmaker," finished the 2004 season with 1,844 passing yards and 349 rushing yards. Provided he returns, he would have a shot at several school records in career passing yardage and total offense.
"I'm going to see what they say, and ask some people that I know and have been in touch with," Cutler said. "And I'll just go from there."
Cutler, a fourth-year player who is a senior academically, has everything in order to graduate next May with a degree in Human and Organizational Development. If he decides to return for a fifth season, he would either need to pick up a second major or enter a graduate school program.
Two other fourth-year juniors who may explore their NFL opportunities are fullback Matthew Tant and defensive end Jovan Haye. Tant said Saturday he had not made a decision, but indicated he might also be exploring his options on whether or not to return. Haye was not made available to the media Saturday, but the 6-3, 280-pound junior captain almost certainly has an NFL career ahead at whatever point he decides to pursue it.
"There are some people that definitely have opportunities," Cutler said. "Jovan definitely has some opportunities. But for the most part, everyone's going to come back."
One talented fourth-year senior who says he will definitely return is linebacker Moses Osemwegie. "I'll be here, no question about it," Osemwegie said Saturday. "I'm here."
Vanderbilt has not had a player leave early for the NFL since Jamie Winborn did it after the 2000 season. The former Commodore linebacker, who left school after four years but with one year of eligibility remaining, was drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers.
Football season's over-- except here at VandyMania, where the season's never over. We'll keep you up to the minute on off-season developments as the Commodores look ahead toward 2005.