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Record number of players on NFL’s official early-entry list for 2018 draft

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If it seemed to you like there were an inordinate number of early cannonballers jumping into the draft pool, you were correct.

Four days after the Jan. 15 deadline, the NFL Friday announced that 106 players have been granted special eligibility for the April draft.  That sets a new record for early entrants, breaking the mark of 98 set in 2014.  The past two seasons, there were 95 and 96 in 2017 and 2016, respectively.  In 2015, there were just 74.

The SEC was hit hardest by attrition with 26 players leaving early, although the ACC wasn’t far behind at 24.  The Pac-12 was next among the Power Five conferences with 17, followed by the Big 12’s 13 and the Big Ten’s 11.

Among Group of Five leagues, Conference USA lost the most with four.  The Mountain West saw three go early, with the AAC (two), MAC (one) and Sun Belt (one) coming next in line.  There were also two non-FBS players who left early, as well as two from Notre Dame.

As far as individual schools go, there were three that lost six apiece — Florida State, LSU and Texas.  Alabama lost five, while Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC all lost four apiece.  Clemson, Florida, Louisville, Stanford and Tennessee were on the losing end of three players each.

In addition to the 106 granted special eligibility — they’ll be listed at the end — the NFL also granted eligibility to 13 players who the league writes “have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements.” Those players are listed below:

» Jordan Akins, TE, UCF
» Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
» Kyle Allen, QB, Houston
» Will Clapp, C, LSU
» Terrell Edmunds, DB, Virginia Tech
» Taylor Hearn, G, Clemson
» Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
» Sam Jones, G, Arizona State
» Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
» Brian O’Neill, T, Pittsburgh
» Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State
» Tre'Quan Smith, WR, UCF
» Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Courtesy of the NFL, below is the complete list of 106 players who have been granted special eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft:

» Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
» Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, DE, Toledo
» Jaire Alexander, DB, Louisville
» Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
» Dorance Armstrong, DE, Kansas
» Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
» Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
» Jessie Bates, DB, Wake Forest
» Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
» Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
» Deontay Burnett, WR, USC
» Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
» Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
» Geron Christian, T, Louisville
» Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
» Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
» Vosean Crumbie, DB, Nevada
» J.J. Dallas, DB, Louisiana-Monroe
» James Daniels, C, Iowa
» Sam Darnold, QB, USC
» Carlton Davis, DB, Auburn
» Michael Dickson, P, Texas
» Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
» DeShon Elliott, DB, Texas
» Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
» Matt Fleming, WR, Benedictine
» Nick Gates, T, Nebraska
» Rashaan Gaulden, DB, Tennessee
» Frank Ginda, LB, San Jose State
» Rasheem Green, DT, USC
» Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
» Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama
» Quadree Henderson, WR, Pittsburgh
» Holton Hill, DB, Texas
» Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State
» Jeff Holland, LB, Auburn
» Mike Hughes, DB UCF
» Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
» Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB, Western Kentucky
» Ryan Izzo, TE, FSU
» Donte Jackson, DB, LSU
» J.C. Jackson, DB, Maryland
» Josh Jackson, DB, Iowa
» Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
» Derwin James, DB, FSU
» Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
» Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
» Courtel Jenkins, DT, Miami
» Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
» Ronald Jones, RB, USC
» John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
» Arden Key, LB, LSU
» Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
» Du’Vonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
» Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
» Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
» Tavares Martin, WR, Washington State
» Hercules Mata’afa, DE, Washington State
» Ray-Ray McCloud, WR, Clemson
» Tarvarus McFadden, DB, Florida State
» R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
» Reginald McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
» Quenton Meeks, DB, Stanford
» Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
» D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
» Ryan Nall, RB, Oregon State
» Nick Nelson, DB, Wisconsin
» Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
» Isaiah Oliver, DB, Colorado
» Dwayne Orso-Bacchus, T, Oklahoma
» Da’Ron Payne, NT, Alabama
» Kamryn Pettway, RB, Auburn
» Eddy Pineiro, K, Florida
» Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
» D.J. Reed, DB, Kansas State
» Justin Reid, DB, Stanford
» Will Richardson, T, NC State
» Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
» Austin Roberts, TE, UCLA
» Korey Robertson, WR, Southern Miss
» Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
» Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
» Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
» Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
» Andre Smith, LB, UNC
» Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
» Van Smith, DB, Clemson
» Breeland Speaks, DE, Ole Miss
» Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
» Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
» Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
» Maea Teuhema, T, Southeastern Louisiana
» Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
» Kevin Toliver, DB, LSU
» Travonte Valentine, NT, LSU
» Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
» Vita Vea, NT, Washington
» Mark Walton, RB, Miami
» Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State
» Chris Warren, RB, Texas
» Toby Weathersby, T, LSU
» Jordan Whitehead, DB, Pittsburgh
» JoJo Wicker, DT, Arizona State
» Jalen Wilkerson, DE, Florida State
» Connor Williams, T, Texas
» Eddy Wilson, DT, Purdue

Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates declares for NFL Draft

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Wake Forest defensive back Jessie Bates is joining the crowd of underclassmen in declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft. Bates announced his decision to declare for the draft this spring with a statement on Twitter.

Bates ended his 2017 season with 77 tackles and an interception. Some scouts seem to think Bates could have benefitted with his NFL Draft stock if he stuck around another year, but Bates will still be a talented prospect NFL teams in need of some defensive and special teams help will consider. He could go in the second or third round of the NFL Draft, in all likelihood.

There are now at least 75 underclassmen declared for the upcoming NFL Draft, with the deadline to make such a decision quickly approaching. Bates announced his decision th same day as USC running back Ronald Jones IINotre Dame running back Josh Adams, and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Josh Adams becomes second Notre Dame player to declare for draft in two days

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For the second time in as many days, Notre Dame is losing a productive member of its offense.

On his Instagram account Friday afternoon, Josh Adams announced that, “[w]ith a lot of thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I’ve decided to forgo my senior year and enter the 2018 NFL Draft.” In the missive, the running back stated that he’ll “always have Notre Dame in my heart” and will “definitely be back to earn and receive my degree” from the university.

Adams led the Fighting Irish in rushing each of the past two seasons. After running for 933 as a sophomore in 2016, he ran for 1,430 this season, a total that was good for 14th nationally. During his three seasons in South Bend, he also accounted for 20 touchdowns on the ground.

Thursday, Adams’ teammate and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown announced that he too will be leaving the Irish early for the NFL.

Notre Dame wideout Equanimeous St. Brown declares for the NFL draft

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The man with the best name in college football is no longer going to play college football.

Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown took to Twitter on Thursday evening to announce that he was leaving South Bend and declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft.

St. Brown was the Irish’s leading receiver each of the past two years and one of the team’s biggest playmakers. While his numbers (33 catches, 515 yards and four touchdowns) were down from 2016 to 2017, the 6-foot-5 wideout turning pro early was expected and it’s possible he could wind up going early come draft weekend. He joins Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson in making the jump from this year’s team to the pros but the pair is not expected to be alone with decisions coming from running back Josh Adams and linebacker Te’von Coney among others.

Losing St. Brown is still a big blow to Brian Kelly’s 2018 squad though, especially when you factor in receiver Kevin Stepherson has been indefinitely suspended from all football-related activities. The Irish will have two quarterbacks with plenty experience but finding reliable targets for them will be one of the key questions facing the team over the next several months prior to the season opener.

Late touchdown lifts No. 14 Notre Dame to second straight bowl win over No. 17 LSU

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A late touchdown pass from backup quarterback Ian Book to wideout Miles Boykin lifted No. 14 Notre Dame to a 21-17 win over No. 17 LSU in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. It was the second time in four seasons the Irish have closed the year with a bowl win over LSU; the Irish booked a 31-28 Music City Bowl defeat of the Bayou Bengals to conclude the 2014 campaign.

After a 3-0 first half, LSU took the lead on a 20-yard pass from Danny Etling to Derrius Guice, then extended its advantage to 14-6 on a 2-yard Guice run with 11:13 left in regulation. However, two missed field goals late in the first half cost LSU a chance to take complete control of the game with Guice’s scores.

With Book in the game for starter Brandon Wimbush (3-of-8 for 52 yards), Notre Dame drove 75 yards in 10 plays to score on a 5-yard Dexter Williams run, then tied the game on a Josh Adams shovel pass that was originally ruled short of the goal line but overturned upon review.

LSU moved to the Notre Dame 1-yard line with 2:03 remaining, but Ed Orgeron elected to go for a 17-yard Jack Gonsoulin rather than risk a 4th-and-1 play. Gonsoulin’s kick was good, giving the Tigers the lead.

Notre Dame needed only three plays to take the lead, when Book (14-of-19 for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) found Boykin for this 55-yard score.

LSU’s last-gasp chance to win the game died on an incomplete Etling pass on a 4th-and-15 from his own 29-yard line.

LSU closed Orgeron’s first season as head coach at 9-4, while Notre Dame successfully erased the taste of last year’s 4-8 season with a 10-3 campaign. The win allowed Brian Kelly to become the fourth head coach in Notre Dame history to record three 10-win seasons.