Xavier Grimble

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

USC TE Xavier Grimble is headed to the NFL

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The exodus of underclassmen to the NFL continues.

This time it’s USC junior tight end Xavier Grimble, who told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday night that he has decided to declare for the NFL draft.

“I’ve been at ‘SC for four years and have had a pretty productive career,” Grimble told The Times in a phone interview Tuesday night. “I’m healthy and just want to move on and give it a shot…. I feel like it was kind of my time.”

Grimble is the fifth Trojan to declare early for the draft, joining wide out Marqise Lee, center Marcus Martin, safety Dion Bailey and defensive tackle George Uko.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder — ranked the No. 1 prep tight end in the class of 2010 — caught 69 passes and scored five touchdowns in his USC career, with 25 catches and two touchdowns coming this past season.

His departure leaves the Trojans with two scholarship tight ends, senior Randall Telfer and junior Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, both of whom played a lot this past fall (when healthy). USC also has a verbal commitment from one of the top high school tight ends in the country, Bryce Dixon, of Ventura, Calif., so Grimble is leaving the Trojan tight end position in able hands.

UCLA beats USC by largest margin since 1970

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Brett Hundley passed for 202 yards and rushed for 80 as No. 22 UCLA whipped No. 23 USC, 35-14, at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

UCLA improves to 9-3 overall and 6-3 in Pac-12 play while USC falls to 9-4 and 6-3.

It was the Bruins’ largest margin of victory over the Trojans since 1970.

And it may have put an end to whatever momentum that was behind USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron‘s bid to become the school’s permanent head man.

UCLA looked sharper than USC from the start and jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind Hundley’s arm and an array of well-time quarterback draws. The Trojans cut the lead to 14-7 at the half thanks to tailback Javorious Allen, scored USC’s first TD on his way to a game-high 123 yards on 20 carries.

But Hundley was just too good on this night. He drove the Bruins 85 yards in the third quarter and scored on a 12-yard run to push UCLA’s lead to 21-7. Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler responded with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Grimble, but Hundley’s five-yard run made it 28-14 at the end of the third quarter.

USC threatened to score on the ensuing drive, but Allen fumbled at the UCLA 20-yard line and the Trojans never crossed midfield again. UCLA tacked on a Paul Perkins 8-yard run in the fourth quarter to reach the final score.

UCLA has now beaten USC in back-to-back years for the first time since 1997-1998 and have back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time since those years, too.  Jim Mora Jr., is the first UCLA coach to beat USC in his first two meetings since Bob Toledo back in the mid-1990s.

Can Orgeron survive this kind of loss, which also snaps USC’s five-game win streak? Trojan athletic director Pat Haden is going to have a very difficult decision to make. The bet here is that this game probably ended any chance Orgeron has of being named USC’s permanent head coach.

USC rules Silas Redd out for Stanford

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USC has ruled running back Silas Redd out for this weekend’s game against Stanford. Earlier this week Redd was questionable for the game after suffering a knee injury in USC’s most recent win against Cal.

On Thursday night USC’s official Twitter feed made the announcement, along with some other injury updates…

Redd has only played in five games this season due to nagging knee and leg injury concerns slowing him down. Redd had rushed for a season high 140 yards against Oregon State two weeks ago after being stuffed by Utah for zero yards on 10 carries the week before. Redd rushed for 112 yards in a loss at Notre Dame but has largely been a non-factor for USC’s offense this season.

USC’s running game will likely continue to see the emergence of Javorious Allen, who has rushed for 133 and 135 yards in each of USC’s last two games. Allen also scored five touchdowns between the two games. Tre Madden is SUC’s leading rusher this season although his role has been reduced at times lately due to a nagging hamstring. Madden is probable for this weekend’s game against the Pac 12’s leading rushing defense. Stanford is one of eight teams from an AQ conference holding opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards per game (99.22).