USC’s offense was already set to have some new faces in the crowd next season with the departure of quarterback Sam Darnold to the NFL. Now, Darnold’s top target in 2018 is also making his way to the NFL this year. Deontay Burnett declared his eligibility for the NFL Draft this spring with a brief statement released on his Twitter account Monday evening.
“After sitting down with my mother, father and family evaluating my future, I have decided to forego my senior season at USC and declare for the 2018 NFL Draft,” Burnett said. “It has truly been an honor to forever go down as a Rose Bowl and Pac-12 champion.” (USC won the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2016 season and the Pac-12 championship in 2017.)
Burnett is coming off a season in which he led USC with 86 receptions and 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns. Burnett led the Trojans in each receiving category. In 2016, Burnett was USC’s third-leading receiver but managed to play a key role in the offense with JuJu Smith-Schuster leading the receivers.
USC now must replace its starting quarterback, leading rusher, and leading receiver in 2018. That’s a lot of offense to replace for the defending Pac-12 champs.
The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation has trimmed down the list of the nation’s top receivers to 10 semifinalists for this year’s Biletnikoff Award. The award doesn’t necessarily have to go to a wide receiver, but this year’s award will maintain that tradition with 10 semifinalists all playing the wide receiver position.
Among the semifinalists are the nation’s leading receiver, Colorado State’s Michael Gallup (1,298 yards), the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns, West Virginia’s David Sills V (18 touchdowns), and the nation’s leader in receptions per game, SMU’s Trey Quinn (9.6 receptions per game). The semifinalist list also includes key players on conference contenders like Deontay Burnett of USC and James Washington of Oklahoma State.
A Big 12 receiver has won the award each of the past two seasons, so that may be good news for one of the three semifinalists from the Big 12 this season. Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook won the award a year ago, preceded by Baylor’s Corey Coleman in 2015.A Big 12 player has won the award a total of six times since 2007, with Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon each winning the award twice.
2017 Biletnikoff Semifinalists
- Darren Andrews, UCLA
- A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
- Deontay Burnett, USC
- Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
- Michael Gallup, Colorado State
- Steve Ishmael, Syracuse
- Anthony Miller, Memphis
- Trey Quinn, SMU
- David Sills, West Virginia
- James Washington, Oklahoma State