NFL draft declaration deadline winners and losers
Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Syracuse coach Doug Marrone are off to the NFL. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien are staying put. Their respective programs will be impacted accordingly.
But what about the record 75 college players who decided by the Jan. 15 declaration deadline to take their talents to the next level, and the countless other touted eligible underclassmen who decided to come back? Many of their decisions will greatly impact their current or former teams' fate in 2013.
Let's review the biggest winners and losers after the 2013 declaration day.
• LSU: No team in history has seen so many players bolt for the NFL in the same year, though the Tigers' 10 includes previously exiled star Tyrann Mathieu. It's a testament to just how much talent Les Miles has stockpiled in recent years. The group includes four standouts -- defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Eric Reid -- who garnered at least All-SEC honors in 2012, and a fifth, tackle Chris Faulk, who was named preseason All-America before suffering a season-ending knee injury in September. Even the Tigers' punter (Brad Wing) turned pro. Some defectors will be easier to replace than others. Two tailbacks, Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, turned pro, yet two others, freshman Jeremy Hill and sophomore Kenny Hilliard, rushed for more yards last year and will return. But Minter was the heart of the Tigers' defense in 2012, and LSU's perpetually deep defensive line will be tested by the departures of Montgomery, Mingo, fellow draft entrant Bennie Logan and senior starters Josh Downs and Lavar Edwards.
• Stanford: The Cardinal figured to lose All-America tight end Zach Ertz (68 catches, 898 yards), but that departure got compounded when fellow tight end Levine Toilolo (24 catches, 393 yards) declared, too. Coach David Shaw relies on his tight ends more than any coach in the country, but will be starting from scratch at the position this fall. Furthermore, the graduations of Drew Terrell, Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Stepfan Taylor mean Stanford will lose five of its top six receivers. The good news is, linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy decided to stay put, and only one starting defender, cornerback Terrence Brown, turned pro. The Cardinal will still return nine starters from the nation's No. 5 rushing defense.
• Florida: It's no surprise that Will Muschamp's eighth-ranked defense would suffer some defections. However, the guys who left -- All-America safety Matt Elam (23.5 career tackles for loss), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (26.0) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (154 career tackles) -- were arguably the Gators' three most important players for last year's 11-2 team. Tight end Jordan Reed, Florida's top receiver (45 catches, 559 yards), also declared. Now, Florida will be breaking in five new starters on the front seven and returning just four defensive starters total. (Fortunately for the Gators, defensive end Dominique Easley opted to return for his senior year.) And joining Elam, Floyd and Jenkins in the NFL: defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, now with the Seahawks.
• Michigan State: The Spartans had a disappointing 7-6 season, so it might seem implausible that multiple NFL aspirants filled the roster. But three extremely talented juniors, All-Big Ten running back Le'Veon Bell (1,793 yards, 12 touchdowns), tight end Dion Sims (36 catches, 475 yards) and defensive end William Gholston (13 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups), are bolting early. None are considered likely first-round picks. Bell was the saving grace on an offense that never could find its passing game, and it doesn't help that backup Larry Caper is graduating, too. While Gholston was the Spartans' most touted defender, that side of the ball should be in better shape with seven starters returning from the nation's fourth-ranked defense.
• Tennessee: Derek Dooley's Vols only did one thing particularly well: throw the ball, ranking No. 15 nationally in passing offense. Now, new coach Butch Jones won't even be able to count on that. Quarterback Tyler Bray (3,612 yards, 34 touchdowns) turned pro, as did top receivers Justin Hunter (73 catches, 1,083 yards) and Cordarrelle Patterson (46 catches, 778 yards). Defensive tackle Darrington Sentimore jumped, too. None of the three offensive announcements came as a surprise, but it still leaves Tennessee extremely inexperienced on offense. Rising junior Justin Worley, who started three games in 2011, will be the favorite to replace Bray, while a cast of youngsters, led by promising sophomore-to-be Alton Howard, will vie to become the Vols' new playmakers.
• Alabama: It may sound strange, seeing as the Tide lost three accomplished underclassmen -- running back Eddie Lacy, tackle D.J. Fluker and cornerback Dee Milliner -- but it could have been much worse for the reigning champions. The fact that Alabama's most important players on both offense (quarterback AJ McCarron) and defense (linebacker C.J. Mosley) opted to return for another year is the biggest reason 'Bama will be picked to three-peat. Of the three early entries, Fluker's departure may hurt the most, with the Tide already losing All-America linemen Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack. At running back, rising sophomore T.J. Yeldon steps in for Lacy. Ditto classmate Geno Smith for Milliner.
• Georgia: Like Alabama, the Bulldogs hardly survived the declaration period unscathed. Standout defenders Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and Kwame Geathers all bolted, but Mark Richt's team got a pleasant boost when three-year starting quarterback Aaron Murray decided to come back for his senior season. Murray had been widely considered a likely three-and-done player, particularly after a solid junior season (3,893 yards, 36 touchdowns, 10 interceptions). But Murray, who said he received a second-to-third round grade from the advisory board, said he decided shortly after the Dawgs' heartbreaking SEC title game loss to 'Bama that he wanted another shot.
• Clemson: On the downside, star receiver DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins (1,405 yards, 18 touchdowns) decided to bolt. But in much bigger news for Dabo Swinney's team, star quarterback Tajh Boyd (3,896 yards, 36 touchdowns, 13 interceptions) elected to come back. Coming off an important Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU, the three-year standout will have a chance to contend both for an ACC championship and the Heisman Trophy. Boyd, who retains the services of Clemson's other stud receiver, Sammy Watkins (limited by injury in 2012), will have a chance to make an early statement when the Tigers meet Murray and Georgia on Aug. 31.
• Michigan: In one of the most surprising announcements of the season, left tackle Taylor Lewan, a consensus All-America and likely top 15 draft choice, opted to come back for his senior season. This did not please draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., who declared it "a bad call." But it's great for the Wolverines. Lewan can help ease Michigan through a daunting transition on offense. Denard Robinson is gone, and Devin Gardner will likely be the full-time quarterback from training camp this year, but Michigan must replace all three starting interior linemen.
• Texas: In a telling sign of the Longhorns' talent decline over the past few years, no Texas players declared for the draft. It wasn't even a viable option for most. However, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, a projected first-round pick before the season, chose to return for his senior year after suffering a season-ending pectoral injury against Oklahoma. Wide receiver Mike Davis briefly flirted with leaving before changing his mind. There will be no excuses for Texas in 2013. Coming off an Alamo Bowl victory and a nine-win season, the 'Horns should return a staggering 19 starters, though standout defenders Alex Okafor and Kenny Vacarro were two of the team's few seniors.
• Oklahoma: To no one's surprise, top receiver Kenny Stills (82 catches, 959 yards) and standout safety Tony Jefferson (119 tackles) turned pro. To considerable surprise, linebacker Tom Wort (53 tackles), despite an unremarkable season, joined them. But OU finally received some good news this week when its top defender, All-Big 12 cornerback Aaron Colvin, opted to return. So, too, did another potential draft prospect, tight end/fullback Trey Millard.
• Texas A&M: It's impossible to overstate the importance of All-Americas tackle Luke Joeckel and defensive end Damontre Moore (12.5 sacks) to the Aggies' historic 11-win season. It would have been stunning if either came back. But Joeckel's departure makes it even more important that his All-SEC bookend, Jake Matthews, is coming back. Matthews will move from right to left tackle to replace Outland winner Joeckel.
• TCU: Veteran Josh Boyce, the Horned Frogs' leading receiver for three straight seasons (including 66 catches for 891 yards last season) turned pro. That was less surprising than this week's announcement by defensive end Stansly Maponga, who had an injury-plagued junior year. But TCU's biggest star, All-America safety Jason Verrett (six interceptions), pleased Frogs fans immensely when he announced he's coming back.
• North Carolina running back Gio Bernard (1,228 yards, 12 TDs)
• Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins
• Nevada running back Stefphon Jefferson (1,883 yards, 24 TDs)
• Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle (1,417 yards, 14 TDs)
• USC receiver Robert Woods (76 catches, 846 yards)
• Kent State running back Dri Archer (2,577 all-purpose yards, 23 TDs)
• Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr (4,104 yards, 37 TDs, 7 INTs)
• Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews (94 catches, 1,323 yards)
• Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby (19 passes defended)
• Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton (23.5 tackles for loss)
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