Record 65 underclassmen declare early for NFL draft

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Last year around this time, the NFL was announcing a record 56 underclassmen had left eligibility on the table in order to make themselves available for the April draft.

A year later?  Consider that record shattered.

The NFL announced Thursday that a total of 65 eligible underclassmen have decided to take their game to the next level.  Prior to last year, the record had been 53, first in 2008 then tied in 2010.

And, as is normally the case, there were a handful of players included in this year’s NFL list that had not been previously reported:

  • Jamison Berryhill, RB, Texas
  • Tiree Eure, TE, Minnesota
  • Dorian Graham, WR, Syracuse
  • Janzen Jackson, DB, McNeese State
  • Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
  • Ken Plue, G, Purdue
  • Johnny Thomas, DB, Oklahoma State
  • Phillip Thomas, DB, Syracuse

Interestingly, a pair of running backs who had previously announced they were leaving early — Washington’s Chris Polk by the school and Utah State’s Robert Turbin on Twitter — were not on the list released by the NFL.  It’s unclear why they weren’t included, and emails seeking clarification from the respective schools on the status of the players have not yet been returned.

(Writer’s note: a UW official responded to CFT’s email, writing that Polk being excluded by the NFL “[m]ust be a mistake on their part. He made it official on Jan. 2, and nothing has changed.”  In a followup email, the same official wrote “that the NFL considers him a senior since he never technically redshirted. Had he wanted to come back for the 2012 season, he could have gotten a year back (without any doubt), but no one had ever done the paperwork for that year (2008) for whatever reason.”  So, for accounting purposes, Polk is not considered an early entry by the NFL.)

(Writer’s note, the sequel: USU’s director of media relations, Zach Fisher, wrote that “because of being five years out of high school, [Turbin] is not classified as needing to be granted the special eligibility for the draft.”)

The running back position, incidentally, saw the most attrition, with 13 players at that position on the NFL’s list.  Defensive linemen (12), wide receivers (11), defensive backs (9) and offensive linemen (8) were the next hardest hit positions.  Tight end saw the least attrition with three players, while just five quarterbacks made themselves available for the upcoming draft.

Conference-wise, three accounted for well over half of the early entries — the ACC (14), SEC (12) and Pac-12 (10).  All 11 conferences lost at least one player, with the Big Ten (7), Big 12 (6) and Big East (6) accounting for most of the remaining future draftees.  A pair of players from non-Div. 1-A — Southern Illinois RB Jewel Hampton and McNeese State DB Janzen Jackson — were included as well.

As far as last year’s draft was concerned, it seemed to be a boom-or-bust proposition for those who applied for early entry.  While nearly half of the entire first round (15) consisted of juniors, redshirt or otherwise, the same number went undrafted.  Add in 12 players selected in the second round, and exactly 75 percent of the players in the early-entry Class of 2011 either went in the first two rounds or were not selected at all.

What does it mean?  Make the leap if you have the talent.  If not, jump at your own peril.

Anyway, for the complete list of underclassmen whose future lies in the professional ranks, click HERE.

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

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Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

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Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

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USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.

Turner Field on schedule to be ready for Georgia State season opener

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The Atlanta Braves opened the doors to their brand new baseball stadium over the weekend to fans as the baseball team gets ready to open the 2017 season in their new digs. Meanwhile, at the old home of the Braves, Georgia State University is moving along according to schedule in downsizing and renovating Turner Field to serve as the permanent home of the football program. So far, so good, as the university fully anticipates the stadium will be ready to go for the season opener on August 31 against Tennessee State.

The job that’s being done is incredible,” Athletic Director Charlie Cobb told 11Alive. “Each and every time I walk in, I see something new being done.”

Renovation and construction at Turner Field got started in February. The entire project will be done in phases as the university plans to develop around thew football stadium for an expanding university. As far as the stadium goes, the seating capacity will be retrofitted to hold a capacity of 23,000 fans. That will be the first phase of the master plan, with a second phase to complete building the rest of the stadium and add additional seating for fans.

“We plan on doing some unique things capturing the history of the stadium, but also creating a football facility that speaks to Georgia State,” Cobb said. “One of the stories we want to tell is the fact that it went from being an Olympic venue, to the home of the Braves, and now to the home of Georgia State. I think we can write that third chapter.”

Georgia State previously played its home games in the Georgia Dome, the now former home of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. The Falcons are also moving into a new football stadium this season. The Falcons’ new home at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also welcome some college football action to the stadium this season with the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff will move to the new stadium from the Georgia Dome. This year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff features Alabama and Florida State on September 2 and Georgia Tech and Tennessee on September 4. The SEC Championship Game and the Peach Bowl will also be hosted in the new stadium and the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game will be played there on January 8, 2018.

Georgia State may have their new home, but perhaps one day they will get to play in the new stadium too.