Yesterday the NFL released the complete list of underclassmen who’ll be turning pro early early this spring. The grand total reached 98. That’s a new record number easily eclipsing last year’s record tally of 73 early entrants.
Football has a problem on its hands (in addition to cheating, a chasm between the richest D-I schools and the poorest, and ever-increasing injury totals). Just as transfers and the NBA’s one-and-done plan are making a mess of basketball, the flight of juniors and redshirt sophomores from college football robs teams of chemistry and programs of stars.
Of the 98 who’ll be jetting early, 29 — or 29.5% — will be departing from the Southeastern Conference. While that’s no surprise as NFL teams now stock their rosters with more SEC players than athletes from other leagues, it’s still disappointing for fans. And it must be ulcer-causing for coaches.
Below is the full list of SEC early entrants:
Alabama — S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, LB Adrian Hubbard, OT Cyrus Kouandjio, DL Jeoffrey Pagan, S Vinnie Sunseri
Arkansas — None
Auburn — RB Tre Mason, OT Greg Robinson
Florida — DT Dominique Easley, LB Ronald Powell, CB Loucheiz Purifoy, CB Marcus Roberson
Georgia — None
Kentucky — None
LSU — WR Odell Beckham, RB Alfred Blue, DT Ego Ferguson, RB Jeremy Hill, DT Anthony Johnson, WR Jarvis Landry, OG Trai Turner
Miss. State — None
Missouri — DE Kony Ealy, RB Henry Josey
Ole Miss — WR Donte Moncrief
South Carolina — DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Bruce Ellington, CB Vic Hampton, DL Kelcy Quarles
Tennessee — OT Antonio Richardson
Texas A&M — WR Mike Evans, QB Johnny Manziel
Vanderbilt — WR Chris Boyd (who’d already been dismissed from the Commodore team)
Those hardest hit by early defections? LSU is losing seven players, five from what was a strong offense in 2013. Last year defensive coordinator John Chavis had to start from scratch. This year it’ll be offensive coordinator Cam Cameron who’ll have to retool on the fly. And two years in a row Les Miles’ squad has been hit harder than anyone else around.
Florida will lose four players from its defense. In a win-or-else season for Will Muschamp the last thing the coach needed was to have to rebuild his offense and his defense. Maybe Muschamp pulls a rabbit out of his hat, but the odds are stacking up against him.
Alabama lost five players, four from its defense. South Carolina lost four, including three bonafide stars.
Texas A&M only lost two players but they happened to make up one of the best quarterback/receiver tandems in the nation. Someone will take the places of Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans, but they’ll have a hard time matching the production of that duo.
The SEC will no doubt find new stars. Every year the league signs the best athletes from the high school ranks. But when 29 players a year start leaving early, it is going to impact play. It’s certainly an area to keep an eye on as college football moves into a new playoff era. It’s just one more way the landscape of college football might start to level out after a long stretch of SEC dominance.