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Tag:2012 underclassmen
Posted on: January 21, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Add New Mexico St RB Turner to "early entry" list

On Thursday the NFL announced that a record 65 underclassmen had officially been declared eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft. 

New Mexico State junior running back Kenny Turner's name was not on the list but due to the fact that he is five years removed from his high school graduating class, it didn't need to be. This is the same reason why Utah State's Robert Turbin's name was not on the list. 

Turner has had an circuitous route to the announcement, which was made via the official New Mexico State Athletics website. As NFLDraftScout.com's No. 32 rated running back of the class of 2013, the decision may at first appear surprising. 

Turner, 26, was viewed as one of the best athletes in the state of Florida when he allowed a momentary act of youthful self-preservation change his life. 

Turner and a group of friends, including current Jacksonville Jaguar wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker got into a heated verbal altercation with another group of young men outside of a Orlando, Florida gas station in July of 2002. The argument escalated into violence when a member of the other group fired a gun. Thomas, then 16, took a gun from the car in which his group was riding in and fired back, injuring two from the rival group. Despite his young age, the seriousness of the crime led to Turner being tried as an adult and for two counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors were willing to drop the two attempted murder charges if Turner agreed to plead guilty to one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. 

Turner was sentenced to and served five years in prison. 

Upon his release and with the urging of his friends, Sims-Walker and Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson, Turner enrolled at Fullerton College. Before the first game of their season, however, Turner tore the ACL in his right ACL. After a year of rehabbing the injury, Turner now 22, was back at it. On a kick return in his second season with the Hornets, Turner again tore the ACL. Later that season he also tore the LCL (lateral collateral ligament), which required another surgery. 

Turner returned for a third season with the Hornets and enjoyed an All-American season, rushing for 1,513 yards and 18 touchdowns and helping lead Fullerton to a 10-2 record. His statistics caught the attention of FCS teams. So too did the fact that at 5-10, 192 pounds he ran a 4.37.

Turner signed with New Mexico State and took the first carry of his FCS career 18 yards for a touchdown. His statistics in 2010 were solid (461 rushing yards and two touchdowns and 25 receptions for 203 yards) but pale in comparison to Turner's breakout campaign this past season in which he led the Aggies with 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also finished second on the team with 46 catches for 514 yards and three scores. 

"First of all I would like to thank Coach Walker, Dr. Boston and the NM State administration for giving me the opportunity to play Division I football at New Mexico State," Turner said. "Coming out of junior college I had a few other offers to play Division I football, but after I visited New Mexico State I felt that it was home and I felt that it was the right decision for me. This was a very difficult decision I had to make but when it came down to it I was going to be 27 years old, and in the NFL and at the running back position, age is a factor. So I need to make the jump from college to the NFL. Again, I appreciate all the support and I enjoyed my time as an Aggie."

Considering Turner's age and past, he's going to have a difficult time finding a team willing to invest a draft pick in him, especially considering the running back position may just be the strength of the 2012 draft class. That said, look at the burst and agility he shows as a runner in scoring this touchdown as well as the ability to track the ball over his shoulder on this score. At minimum he'll get a tryout and should Turner get a real opporutnity (like the Scouting Combine) who knows what could happen.

One of the most tried and true strategies I use when evaluating prospects is to listen to other players. Who knows better than they which athletes really are a step ahead of the others? 

Sims-Walker certainly is going to be loyal to his friend but his strong words predicting Turner's future success in the pros doesn't just sound like loyalty. It sounds like an NFL athlete who knows the goods when he sees it.

"I keep telling everybody it's just a waiting game," Sims-Walker told Geoff Grammer of The New Mexican in August of 2010. When he (Sims-Walker), Turner and [Chris] Johnson work out together, he said, it is Turner who sets the pace. "New Mexico State got a steal, and I promise you he'll be (in the NFL). I'll put my house on it. Kenny Turner will be in the league."

Posted on: January 19, 2012 2:48 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 2:53 pm
 

Senior Bowl invites Washington "junior" RB Polk

Lost amid the clutter of the NFL's release that a record 65 underclassmen were granted special eligibility for the 2012 draft was the announcement from the Senior Bowl that ten Pac-12 players were invited to participate in the preeminent senior all-star game in the land.

Among the ten was a surprise -- University of Washington running back Chris Polk, who had been characterized by the Huskies and the NCAA as a whole to this point as a junior.

It had been presumed that Polk, who missed all but the first two games of the 2008 season due to injury, had taken a medical redshirt. As it turns out, Polk did not apply for a redshirt and thus, exhausted his eligibility once the Huskies lost to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.
"We made sure that we followed proper protocol before we invited Chris and that entailed getting everything cleared through the NFL and Coach Sarkisian at the University of Washington," Senior Bowl President and CEO Steve Hale said.  "Once it was determined that Chris had exhausted his eligibility at Washington there was no question we wanted him on our roster.  He is an excellent player and has a bright future in the National Football League."

Polk was not among the 65 underclassmen granted special eligibility by the NFL for the 2012 draft.

Polk's addition to the Senior Bowl roster is a significant one. Ranked as the No. 4 running back in the 2012 draft class by NFLDraftScout.com, Polk leaves Washington having rushed for 4,049 yards -- the second most in school history behind Napoleon Kaufman, a first round pick by the Raiders in 1995.

Listed by Washington at 5-11, 222 pounds Polk is a surprisingly physical back for his size. Though he lacks elite breakaway speed, his vision, burst and determined running made him the MVP for the Huskies in 2010 over quarterback Jake Locker, drafted No. 8 overall by the Titans in April. Polk finished second behind former Washington running back Corey Dillon for the single-season record with 1,415 rushing yards in 2010. He earned First Team All Pac-12 accolades in 2011 after rushing for even more yardage (1,488), including posting 147 yards and a score against Baylor.

Polk is one of three Washington players to be invited to Mobile for the 2012 Senior Bowl. Joining him will be offensive lineman Senio Kelemete and defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu.

The remaining seven Pac-12 prospects invited to the Senior Bowl are Arizona quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner, Arizona State offensive lineman Garth Gerhart and wide receiver Gerell Robinson, California linebacker Mychal Kendricks and offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz and Utah offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom.

Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:16 pm
 

NFL: record 65 underclassmen eligible for 2012

The NFL announced Thursday morning that a record-breaking 65 underclassmen have been granted special eligibility for the 2012 draft. The previous high was 56 which last occurred a year ago. So much for the theory that lesser contracts for high draft picks would curtail the mass exodus of young players into the NFL.

Prominent among the list, of course, is Stanford's Andrew Luck, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and a host of other supremely talented underclassmen that we covered in this underclassmen tracker.

While college coaches are likely bemoaning the loss of so many talented players today, NFL teams couldn't be happier. Frankly, this was an average senior class at most positions and the underclassmen have greatly improved the talent level. In fact, if one were to go group by group, they'd find that an underclassmen ranks at the top of 10 of the 15 offensive and defensive positions on NFLDraftScout.com's board. An even greater testament to the impact underclassmen will have on this draft class, consider that of the highest ranked 11 prospects graded by NFLDraftScout.com, 10 are underclassmen. Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, currently ranked eighth overall, is the exception. Following Still and North Carolina's Quinton Coples, however, are four underclassmen -- each of whom could be first round picks.

Three of the 65 underclassmen listed by the NFL I watched in person practicing at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, California over the past few days. You can read about my impressions of Miami's Brandon Washington (OG) and Aldarius Johnson (WR), as well as Boston College's Max Holloway in this writeup following Tuesday's practice.

Besides the players we'd already known to be leaving school early, there were a few surprises on the NFL's official list. One, Miami's Johnson, I just mentioned. The others are Texas running back Jamison Berryhill, Kansas State running back Bryce Brown, Minnesota tight end Tiree Eure, Syracuse wide receiver Dorian Graham, Purdue guard Ken Plue, Oklahoma State defensive back Johnny Thomas, and Syracuse defensive back Phillip Thomas.

Below is the full list of names released this morning from the NFL.

 

Player

Pos.

College

Alexander, Alvester

RB

Wyoming

Allen, Dwayne

TE

Clemson

Baker, Edwin

RB

Michigan State

Ball, Mike

RB

Nevada

Berryhill, Jamison

RB

Texas

Blackmon, Justin

WR

Oklahoma State

Brockers, Michael

DT

Louisiana State

Brown, Bryce

RB

Kansas State

Burfict, Vontaze

LB

Arizona State

Charles, Orson

TE

Georgia

Claiborne, Morris

DB

Louisiana State

Cox, Fletcher

DT

Mississippi State

DeCastro, David

G

Stanford

Eure, Tiree

TE

Minnesota

Forston, Marcus

DT

Miami

Gilmore, Stephon

DB

South Carolina

Givens, Chris

WR

Wake Forest

Graham, Dorian

WR

Syracuse

Griffin, Robert

QB

Baylor

Hampton, Jewel

RB

Southern Illinois

Harris, Cliff

DB

Oregon

Hightower, Dont’a

LB

Alabama

Hill, Stephen

WR

Georgia Tech

Hillman, Ronnie

 RB

San Diego State

Holloway, Max

DE

Boston College

Hosley, Jayron

DB

Virginia Tech

Jackson, Janzen

DB

McNeese State

James, LaMichael

RB

Oregon

Jeffery, Alshon

WR

South Carolina

Johnson, Aldarius

WR

Miami

Johnson, Damaris

WR

Tulsa

Jones, Chandler

DE

Syracuse

Kalil, Matt

T

Southern California

Kirkpatrick, Dre

DB

Alabama

Konz, Peter

C

Wisconsin

Kuechly, Luke

LB

Boston College

Lewis, Ronnell

DE

Oklahoma

Luck, Andrew

QB

Stanford

Manning, Terrell

LB

North Carolina State

Martin, Jonathan

T

Stanford

Massie, Bobby

T

Mississippi

Mercilus, Whitney

DE

Illinois

Miller, Lamar

RB

Miami

Osweiler, Brock

QB

Arizona State

Page, Eric

WR

Toledo

Paige-Moss, Donte

DE

North Carolina

Perry, Nick

DE

Southern California

Pierce, Bernard

RB

Temple

Plue, Ken

G

Purdue

Poe, Dontari

DT

Memphis

Randle, Rueben

WR

Louisiana State

Reiff, Riley

T

Iowa

Richardson, Trent

RB

Alabama

Robinson, Josh

DB

Central Florida

Sanu, Mohamed

WR

Rutgers

Scott, Darrell

RB

South Florida

Streeter, Tommy

WR

Miami

Thomas, Darron

QB

Oregon

Thomas, Johnny

DB

Oklahoma State

Thomas, Phillip

DB

Syracuse

Trotter, Barrett

QB

Auburn

Vernon, Olivier

DE

Miami

Washington, Brandon

T

Miami

Wilson, David

RB

Virginia Tech

Worthy, Jerel

DT

Michigan State




Posted on: January 16, 2012 9:02 pm
 

Report: Auburn QB Trotter leaving early

The deadline for underclassmen leaving college early for the NFL may have passed Saturday but with some players (and programs) electing to not announce the news publicly, the number of prospects heading into the 2012 draft is sure to grow.

Auburn junior quarterback Barrett Trotter appears to be the first such example.

Trotter, 6-2, 207 pounds, was put in the unenviable position of trying to replace Cam Newton. With Trotter at the helm Auburn was nearly beat in their season opener against Utah State. He threw 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in starting the first seven games of the season for the Tigers. He was benched at halftime against Florida after completing just two of eight passes for 33 yards over the first two quarters. Trotter didn't see action the rest of the year until an injury to starter Clint Moseley during the Chick-fil-A Bowl put him back on the field. To Trotter's credit, he responded with arguably the best game of his career, completing 11 of 18 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in Auburn's 43-24 victory over Virginia.

Despite his heroics, Trotter is not a highly regarded pro prospect. He was rated the No. 26 quarterback of the 2013 draft class by NFLDraftScout.com. Prior to his playing time in 2011 Trotter had only attempted nine passes in his collegiate career. He completed six of them for 64 yards and had also run for 68 yards and a touchdown. For his career Trotter completed 98 of 176 for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns against six interceptions.

Unlike some prospects with an inflated opinion of their standing with NFL scouts, this appears to be an example of a student-athlete taking the academic side of his life seriously while exploring his dream of playing at the professional level.

A redshirt junior, Trotter already has his undergraduate degree and according to Charles Goldberg of al.com is staying in grad school and planning to participate in Auburn's Pro Day tryouts in March.

Posted on: January 14, 2012 10:22 pm
 

Darron Thomas stuns Ducks, leaving early for NFL

If the Oregon Ducks are going to successfully defend their Pac-12 crown next season they'll be doing so with a new starting backfield.

It had been expected that head coach Chip Kelly would lose LaMichael James to the NFL after this season. But Saturday night, junior quarterback Darron Thomas stunned the program with the decision to also forgo his final season of eligibility and head off to the pros.

Thomas, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 12 rated quarterback in the 2013 class, may be making a terrible decision.

The 6-3, 215 pound Thomas has put up impressive statistics in Kelly's offense. Last season he completed 62% of his passes for 2,761 yards and a sparkling touchdown to interception ratio of 33-7. Considering that Thomas also ran for 206 yards and three scores, he was among the most effective all-purpose quarterbacks in the country and played a critical role in Oregon's run to the Rose Bowl championship and No. 4 ranking. He also boasts one of the more impressive career accomplishments any college quarterback can hope to have -- having thrown for at least one touchdown in every one of his career starts (27). In 31 games over his career Thomas passed for 5,910 yards, 66 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions.

That said, Thomas on tape doesn't necessarily match his hype.

Thomas' prodution is inflated due to Oregon's aggressive scheme and explosive athletes. He averaged 8.14 yards gained each time he even attempted a pass in 2011. He flashes good touch down the seams and enough zip to complete crossing routes over the middle, he isn't the elite passer his statistics would suggest. Too many of his passes forced receivers to adjust their routes, limiting opportunities for even bigger plays. Furthermore, he did not show much improvement in his second season as a starter despite playing in a relatively simple offense.

Kelly offered a luke warm opinion on Thomas' decision.
“As in all cases, we educate our players with the information we feel will be beneficial to them throughout the process but ultimately, the decision is left up to the players,” Kelly said. “I will always support Darron in his decision and want to thank him for everything he has done for this program. He obviously has played a major role in elevating Oregon football to new heights and I wish him well in the future.”

Thomas has talent but is viewed by scouts as a significant project. That fact could push him into late portions of the draft (or worse), especially considering that he comes with off-field baggage. Remember, Thomas was the passenger with former Duck cornerback Cliff Harris on the night Harris was pulled over for speeding in a car rented by a Oregon employee. Harris was clocked at 118 miles per hour, was driving without a license and admitted to police he had been smoking marijuana. Thomas' reaction to questions from the media regarding his role in the incident falls a bit short of inspirational. 

Thomas is the second Pac-12 quarterback to attempt to fill the vacancy left when Matt Barkley made his decision to return Southern Cal. He joins Andrew Luck and Arizona State's Brock Osweiler as early entries from the conference.
Posted on: January 14, 2012 2:19 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 2:27 pm
 

Wyoming's Alexander latest RB to make NFL jump

Each year the NFL draft gets a considerable boost in talent with underclassmen. The giving is especially good this year it seems at running back as the position that many feel has become the draft's strongest got yet another boost with a surprise early declaration from Wyoming running back Alvester Alexander.

Listed by Wyoming at 5-11, 208 pounds Alexander burst onto the scene as a true freshman for the Cowboys in 2009 leading the team with 640 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. A year later, Alexander enjoyed his most productive season, breaking the school's single season (14) and single game (five) records for most touchdown scored.

Alexander's production slipped as a junior. Though he ran for 695 yards and six touchdowns in 2011, the Wyoming offense was built around quarterback Brett Smith, who led the team with 710 rushing yards and 10 scores.

An upright runner with only average elusiveness and speed, Alexander may struggle with the jump in competition at the NFL level. He was rated by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 42 rated runnning back in the class of 2013. Considering the talent already assembled for the 2012 draft he may have an uphill fight to rank any higher this year.

Wyoming issued a statement on Alexander's behalf announcing the junior running back's decision but head coach Dave Christensen sounded less than thrilled with Alexander's move.

"“Alvester has decided that he wants to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft at this time,” said head coach Dave Christensen in a statement.  “He feels that this decision is best for he and his family.  It is his decision to make, and we can only wish him the best of luck as he pursues this next step in his career.  We thank Alvester for his contributions over the past three seasons, including helping us to earn two bowl appearances.”

Local sports anchor Jack Nokes of K2TV.com also expressed some surprise with Alexander's decision.












Posted on: January 14, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: January 14, 2012 1:44 pm
 

Troy pass rusher Massaquoi bypassing senior year

Perhaps the most productive pass rusher few college football fans have seen announced Friday he's taken steps to assure that when they do see him, he'll be sacking a quarterback wearing an NFL uniform.

Troy defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi, a two-time First Team All-Sun Belt honoree, announced that he's bypassing his senior season and heading off to the NFL.

"I sure hate to lose him," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said as part of a press release from the university announcing Massaquoi's decision.
 
Estimated at 6-2, 250 pounds, Massaquoi bolsters a relatively weak class of pass rushers potentially capable of lining up as 3-4 rush linebackers. Massaquoi was given a 2nd-3rd round grade by NFLDraftScout.com and is our No. 9 rated outside linebacker, overall. Several other outside linebackers rated ahead of him are better fits remaining in the 4-3 alignment. Massaquoi, who played left defensive end in the Trojans' 4-3 scheme, lacks the bulk to remain opposite the right tackle on anything other than obvious passing downs. He does have good quickness off the snap and is surprisingly effective as a bull rusher due to his leverage and good upper body strength.

There will, of course, be some who question Massaquoi's level of competition, though that didn't stop former Trojans DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora from enjoying great success in the NFL.

Massaquoi posted 128 tackles, including 31 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks in just two seasons at Troy. Prior to enrolling at Troy, he spent the 2008 season at Butler Community College.

Besides production, age may have also played a role in Massaquoi's decision. He's 24 now. As Blakeney said in the statement, "[Massaquoi's] clock is ticking and the NFL is the hardest job in America to get and definitely the hardest one to keep."


Posted on: January 14, 2012 1:12 pm
 

WR Shepard runs a reverse; returning to LSU

In the same way that LSU's Russell Shepard insinuated that he was leaving for the NFL or transferring to another program, the junior wide receiver reversed himself and announced that he will be returning to the Tigers for his senior season.

"I would like to tell everyone that I had a great talk with my family and Coach Miles and I will be attending LSU for my senior season..."

This stands in direct contrast to the tweet Shepard sent out following Monday night's loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship.

It read: "Thanks for your support Tiger Nation...but I have to do what's best for my family and myself...Geaux Tigers."

From the beginning Shepard's comments appeared to have more to do with his frustration for seeing just three snaps in the LSU's loss rather than having had gained positive feedback from NFL scouts. 

Shephard, a highly recruited quarterback and wide receiver prospect out of high school, flashed some big play ability throughout his career with the Tigers but had been passed up on the depth chart. His junior season was marred by an early suspension and he caught just 14 passes in 2011 for 190 yards and four touchdowns. 

With fellow junior receiver Rueben Randle off to the NFL, Shepard's chances at having a much stronger role in 2012 is good. Randle led the team in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and that production will have to go somewhere. At this point Shepard is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 12 ranked receiver in the class of 2013.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com