De’Anthony Thomas

Tide’s Sunseri one of record 98 players declaring for draft

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A draft-eligible Alabama rumored to be headed to the NFL — or not — will indeed be a part of a record-breaking pool this May.

Tide defensive back Vinnie Sunseri was one of 98 players included on the NFL’s official list, released Sunday, of players “who have been granted special eligibility” for the upcoming draft.  It was reported a week ago that the safety was leaning toward making the early leap into the NFL, although there was some vacillation as the redshirt junior waited until right up until the Jan. 15 deadline — plus the three additional days allotted to reconsider, provided there’s no signing with an agent — before making his final decision.

Sunseri is still rehabbing a torn ACL, which he suffered in a mid-October win over Arkansas.

The 98 players granted special eligibility by the NFL is a record, shattering and/or obliterating the old mark of 73 set just last year.  That standard broke the record of 65 set the year before that.  In 2004, just 43 players with eligibility remaining left school early.

For the second consecutive year, LSU led all schools with seven early entrants.  In 2013, the Tigers saw 10 players leave early.  Sunseri gave the Tide five players leaving early, the same number as USC and one-win Cal (?).  Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and South Carolina each saw four players take the early jump into the NFL.

2014 marks the sixth consecutive year that the number of early entrants has increased.

The number could have actually topped the century mark as four players who have left school early but have already graduated were not included in the NFL’s official count: Southern California defensive back Dion Bailey, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard.

You can view the complete, official list of early entrants into the NFL draft:

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An unofficial list of underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft

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The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is upon us. It looks like we’ll have a record 92 (at minimum) declarations this year, easily topping last year’s record of 73. This draft should be among the most talent-laden in recent history.

Why the sudden exodus? Blame the new rookie wage scale, which rewards less money to first round draft picks and delays the big payout until a player’s second contract. That means the more time spent in the league, the better. A lot of these players want to get moving on proving themselves, even if they are a late round pick at the start.

Here’s the unofficial list of early entries as of the Jan. 15 deadline. The NFL will have an official list on Jan. 19:

Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
George Atkinson III, RB, Notre Dame
Dion Bailey, S, USC
Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
Carl Bradford, DE/OLB, Arizona State
Bashaud Breeland, DB, Clemson
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB, Alabama
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
Mike Flacco, TE, New Haven
Cameron Fleming, OT, Stanford
Khairi Fortt, LB, California
Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State
Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
Xavier Grimble, TE, USC
Vic Hampton, CB, South Carolina
Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama
Kameron Jackson, CB, California
Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Marcus Martin, C, USC
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
Viliami Moala, DT, California
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State
Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Jeoffrey Pagan, DL, Alabama
Ronald Powell, LB, Florida
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Kelcy Quarles, DL, South Carolina
Darrin Reaves, RB, UAB
Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Richard Rodgers, TE California
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Yawin Smallwood, LB, UConn
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse
Willie Snead, WR, Ball State
Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Trai Turner, OG, LSU
George Uko, DL, USC
Pierre Warren, FS, Jacksonville State
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Terrance West, RB, Towson
James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
David Yankey, OL, Stanford

Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu coming back to Ducks in 2014

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Yesterday Oregon learned they would be losing De’Anthony Thomas to the NFL, but Monday brings some good news on the defensive side of the football. Defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has decided to return for one more year in Eugene and will be back on defense for the Ducks in 2014.

According to CSN Northwest, Ekpre-Olomu will be the only returning starter in the secondary for Oregon next season, so his veteran presence will be valuable as new faces fill in all across the field. In a statement shared by CSN Northwest, the desire to improve his overall skill before turning pro was a primary reason for returning to Oregon for his final year of eligibility.

“The two main factors related to my decision to return were my continued progression as a person and a player, and I felt Oregon was my best option to achieve those goals and improve my situation for next year,” Ekpre-Olomu told GoDucks. “I should be able to finish my degree by next fall, possibly by the end of the summer. Football is only one phase of who I am; my degree will be forever. Secondly was my ability to make an impact and become a top (draft) pick, and I felt staying one more year would only help me.”

If he entered the draft this season he may have been a late first round draft pick or early second round draft pick. this past season Ekpre-Olomu had three interceptions and 84 tackles.

Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas headed to NFL

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Oregon all-purpose dynamo De’Anthony Thomas joined the chorus of recent declarations for the draft on Sunday by announcing his decision to skip his senior year and head to the NFL.

“I am officially withdrawing from the University of Oregon to pursue a professional career in the NFL,” Thomas said in a prepared statement Sunday. “I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to the University and all of my teammates, coaches and fans.  I look forward to staying connected to the University and visiting the sidelines as often as possible.”

Thomas leaves Oregon as perhaps the best all-purpose player in school history. His 5,345 career yards in just three years is third all-time for the Ducks. Thomas holds Oregon records for kickoff return yards (1,885) and punt return average (17.1), and he’s fourth in career scoring (278 points). This past season, he missed three games but still rushed for 594 yards and eight touchdowns.

He and cornerback Terrance Mitchell are one of two Duck juniors to declare for the draft so far.

Will Oregon miss Thomas that much? Probably not. While he was a very talented player, he displayed poor judgement in his words to the media at times. And while he made a ton of spectacular plays, his failure to make a very easy block on a defender on a Marcus Mariota run against Stanford in 2012 might’ve cost the Ducks a spot in the BCS title game.

The question now is, what position will Thomas play in the NFL? He’s very slight and not the kind of player who can take a pounding. His best bet for success is probably to serve as a wide receiver/return man and maybe carry the ball 3-5 times per game. As is often the case, his success will likely depend on where he ends up and how the team decides to use him.

Round Up: 2014 Army All-American Bowl verbal commitments

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The 14th annual Army All-American Bowl was broadcast by NBC on Saturday. The game features 90 of the best high school football players from across the country. Throughout the years, the game has featured the nation’s most elite football players, providing a launching pad for college and NFL stars such as: Andrew Luck, Jamaal Charles, Percy Harvin, Eric Berry, Patrick Peterson, AJ McCarronDe’Anthony Thomas, and hundreds more.

This year’s game was as star-studded as ever and, as usual, featured live verbal commitments from an array of players. Here’s a round up of the announcements from Saturday:

Quarterback Kyle Allen is headed to Texas A&M and is the heir apparent to Johnny Manziel:

Offensive tackle Brian Wallace has decided to play for Arkansas:

WR Jamil Kamara is heading to Virginia:

In a bit of a surprise, LB Dwight Williams picked UCLA:

The Aggies picked up another commit when WR Frank Iheanacho chose Texas A&M:

Tight end Bryce Dixon has decided to attend USC:

Marshon Lattimore has decided to play his college career at Ohio State:

The number one all-purpose back in the country, according to 247sports, Joe Mixon has decided to play at the University of Oklahoma:

Safety Erick Smith has decided to take his talents to Ohio State: