Going or Staying: the nation's underclassmen

As college football's regular season comes to a conclusion the scouting world now begins to turn its' attention towards the underclassmen who have major decisions to make. The fact juniors could drive to top of next April's draft makes these final choices all the more important. Most eyes will be focused on southern California and south Florida.

USC

At USC, sources have told us two players are signed, sealed and delivered for next April's draft. 

Reggie Bush will enter the selection process and could make his decision public soon after completion of the Rose Bowl.  Winston Justice is also headed to the NFL.  Those familiar with the program have told us Justice would have declared for last April's draft had he not been suspended during the '04 season.

After that it gets a little trickier.

Receiver Steve Smith and safety Darnell Bing are both seriously contemplating making the jump. Smith has given several indications he will enter the draft and looks close to a sure entry.

Running back Lendale White has been throwing out mixed messages.  While most feel it is a foregone conclusion he will enter the draft, family members close to White say he is staying with the Trojans  

A wrench in the works could be rap mogul Snoop Dog, who has a close relationship with White.  

Besides being a huge Trojan fan Snoop Dog is hoping to break into the player\agent business.  He is very close to White and "guaranteed" the Trojan ball carrier a career in the entertainment business if life in football does not pan out.  The bottom line?  White could enter the draft with Snoop Dog as his agent.

Miami Hurricanes

Down in Coral Gables a lot of decisions must be made.  The coaching staff, led by Larry Coker, is campaigning hard to keep the players in fold.

Their top priority is keeping Devin Hester from entering the draft.  Suffering with a strained hamstring, Hester has not received much playing time recently.  Word out of Miami has Hurricane coaches purposely limiting Hester's playing time not only because of the injury but to prevent him from showcasing his skills for the next level. NFL scouts are not presently high on Hester and feel he has not progressed on the football field at cornerback.  Rather then improve his technique, Hester continually relies on tremendous physical skills to make up for mistakes.

Hester is leaning towards entering the draft yet his mother will have plenty of input in the final say.  His girlfriend, a senior on the Hurricane women's basketball team who is soon to graduate, has helped Hester with his studies.  There is some fear her departure will hamper Hester's ability to stay academically eligible.

On their behalf the UM coaching staff is fighting hard to keep Hester from turning pro.  Coker has promised to make Hester the "next Reggie Bush" and give him more time on offense handling the ball.  The promise is to use Hester at wide out and tailback as an offensive "specialist".  Included will be Hester's duties returning punts as well as being used as a nickel back on defense.

At one time we had reported Ryan Moore was ready to enter the draft.  The big receiver has seemingly pulled back from his original decision.  After a fast start Moore was not overly productive during the late part of the season.  Word is Coker has convinced Moore to stay with the Hurricanes.  

Most in the program feel Baraka Atkins and Brandon Meriweather will both return.  At 280-pounds, Atkins feels it is in his best interest to come back for another season with added bulk and strength.  Meriweather's disappointing play during the second half of the year has factored heavily in his decision to this point.

Big Ten

Ohio State receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Ashton Youboty have stated privately they will enter the draft.  Both will start interviewing agents and each has top 32-potential.

Laurence Maroney decided before the season he would enter the draft with a good campaign in '05 and that is what he's expected to do.  Maroney is also interviewing agents.

The word out of Madison is not as clear, though many believe both Brian Calhoun and Joe Thomas will end up returning.

Thomas, an offensive tackle who projects as a late first\early second round pick next April, comes from a solid family and money is not an issue.  Several familiar with the situation have told us Thomas would rather return to Wisconsin and work on becoming a top-ten selection for 2007.

On the other hand Calhoun is wavering.  A smallish ball carrier who projects to third down back in the NFL, Calhoun will have to deal with the loss of his running backs coach at Wisconsin.  One of the reasons he left Colorado for the Badgers was the loss of then CU running backs coach Eric Bienemy, besides a position switch to receiver.  Bienemy's struggle is trying to determine how much more his draft stock would improve with a productive senior campaign in '06.

West Coast

Two, possibly three underclassmen from Fresno State will enter the draft.

Those familiar with the program told us center Kyle Young and cornerback Richard Marshall are set to enter the draft.  Some feel Young could move into the late part of round one with Marshall not far behind.  Another corner, Marcus McCauley, is also close to making the jump.

Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will enter the draft and be the first player at his position selected.

Record breaking receiver Jason Hill of Washington State will also enter the draft.  Should Hill run well for the stopwatch prior to April don't be surprised if he slides into the late part of round one.

Running back\return specialist Maurice Drew-Jones is about 50-50 right now as to his next move.  Several feel at worst Drew-Jones will be a mid-second round choice in April while some feel he could slide into the late part of round one.

Hawaii guard Samson Satele is also considering entering the draft and will ask the NFL Advisory committee for a report.  Satele is a prospect we've been high one since his freshman year.  An athletic blocker, he lacks the pure size to be anything other then a late round pick at this point.

SEC

Several Florida underclassmen plan on petitioning the NFL's advisory committee.  Defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, wide receiver Chad Jackson, cornerback Dee Webb, and running back DeShawn Wynn will make their decisions after receiving pre-draft "grades".

Others

Bowling Green quarterback Omar Jacobs will explore his options.  While we had Jacobs graded highly coming into the season an injury set the strong-armed passer back in '05.  NFL scouts feel entering the draft is a mistake for Jacobs.

Vince Young has been sending mixed signals.  Most associated with the program feel he will enter the draft if Texas wins the national title against USC.  The same holds true for offensive tackle Justin Blaylock.


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