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.

Texas Tech WR Antoine Wesley declares for NFL draft

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He didn’t win enough games at his alma mater, but Kliff Kingsbury did succeed at placing his skill players on NFL rosters. Patrick Mahomes is the MVP front-runner with three weeks left to play, and there are more Red Raider wide receivers in the League than any other college program.

And now we can go ahead and add one more.

Wide receiver Antoine Wesley declared for the NFL draft on Monday. He made the announcement through a Twitter post and a highlight video that paired with the post.

A Las Vegas native by way of Cibolo Steele High School in the San Antonio area, Wesley exploded on the scene as a junior. After catching 10 passes total in his first two seasons, Wesley recorded 88 receptions for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He ranked ninth nationally in catches and seconds in yards and yards per game.

A rangy target at 6-foot-5, Wesley hauled in 13 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-49 win over Houston on Sept. 15, and in back-to-back November games against Oklahoma and Texas he combined to catch 20 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns.

Wesley was named a Second Team All-Big 12 performer this fall.

Report: American considering Grant of Rights for new TV deal

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You ready for the next round of conference realignment rumors? Ready or not, they’re coming.

The American is the first conference to the table to re-up the television deals that blew up the college sports landscape at the early part of this decade, and AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is trying to stave off a raid on his conference roster before it can even start.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the conference is asking its member schools to sign a Grant of Rights agreement before signing its new TV deal(s). For those who did not take a crash course in media law during the Realignment Apocalypse of the 2010s, a Grant of Rights locks in a school’s media rights to that conference, essentially — just for the purse sake of argument — making UCF worthless to the Big 12, since the Knights’ media rights would remain property of the American for the length of the contract.

Such a deal would make the American’s TV much more valuable, since networks bidding on the league would know for a fact they’re getting UCF, Cincinnati and Houston and not — for the pure sake of argument — Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green and UTSA.

It’s no secret that UCF, Cincinnati, Memphis and Houston are the conference’s most valued members, and thus would have the least incentive to commit their media rights to the AAC. So, why then would they do it? The SBJ addresses this:

Part of the negotiations have explored the possibility of top AAC schools making more revenue than others, which is drastically different than the conference’s current deal in terms of revenue distribution. Currently, the conference splits revenue evenly among its members. It’s unclear how a new distribution system that pays more to certain schools would be received by the rest of the conference, but the presence of UCF is expected to lead to a bigger media rights deal for the conference.

So, Aresco will try to convince UCF and the like that the bird in the hand is worth more than a non-existent offer from the Big 12, while telling Tulsa, Temple and the rest that a tilted media deal is still better than what they’d get in a deal without UCF and company. It’s the same strategy Dan Beebe used to keep the Big 12 from complete implosion in the summer of 2010.

The AAC’s current deal is worth an average of $18 million per year — for the entire conference, which is less than half the Big Ten pays each school.

Obviously, the AAC’s new deal won’t approach the Big Ten’s current payouts, but the American’s current contract was put together as the conference was trying to piece together its survival, so the next deal is expected to shoot up significantly. How significant depends on if the conference’s more popular members are willing to commit to the league in the long term.

Ole Miss LT Greg Little declares for NFL draft

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It’s possible that the first offensive tackle off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft just joined the draft.

Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little announced Monday he will enter the draft early, declaring after his junior season.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to represent the prestigious Ole Miss. However, after several in depth discussions with my family, I have chosen to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft,” Little wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account.

A consensus 5-star recruit and the No. 1 offensive tackle in the Class of 2016, Little played to his billing from the moment he arrived in Oxford. He was a First Team Freshman All-SEC honoree by the league’s coaches in 2016 after appearing in all 13 games and starting five as a true freshman, a Second Team All-SEC player as a sophomore after starting all 12 games at left tackle as a sophomore, and then a First Team All-SEC player this season.

The Allen, Texas, native was also a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award as the top college football player with Texas ties.

Ole Miss names ex-Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre defensive coordinator

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Mike MacIntyre has a new coaching gig for 2019. The former Colorado head coach has been named the new defensive coordinator of Ole Miss, the Rebels football program announced today.

“I could not be more excited to add Mike’s leadership, values and high-level experience to our program,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said in a released statement. “Throughout our years together at Duke and Ole Miss, I have seen firsthand his ability to turn around a defense, and I look forward to seeing his veteran influence on that side of the ball. Mike is also a tremendous recruiter and should make an immediate impact as we assemble this important class.”

This will be the second time with the Ole Miss program for MacIntyre. MacIntyre previously coached at Ole Miss from 1999 through 2002 as a wide receivers coach and later a defensive backs coach. MacIntyre and Luke were on the same staff in 1999 when the current Rebels head coach was starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant. Luke moved on to be an offensive line coach the following season at Murray State but returned to Ole Miss in 2002 to fill the same role in addition to taking on coaching tight ends. MacIntyre took his coaching career to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys after the 2002 season.

MacIntyre was fired by Colorado as head coach on Nov. 18, prior to the end of the regular season.