clear
Friday February 12th, 2016 3:44PM

Quickest route into NFL draft goes through SEC

By The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Southeastern Conference has become the most popular jumping-off point for underclassmen looking for a head start on NFL careers, creating more spots to fill around the league with preseason camps approaching.<br /> <br /> No league has had nearly as many players leaving early to pursue NFL careers over the past eight years, and LSU has had the most of any program two years running.<br /> <br /> "We do lead college football in three-and-outs," Tigers coach Les Miles said.<br /> <br /> It's not a distinction coaches particularly covet - except perhaps to juice the sales pitch to teenage recruits already dreaming of their first NFL paycheck.<br /> <br /> It also creates some potential headaches for those who have - sometimes unexpectedly - more job openings leading into August, not that coaches around the country have much sympathy.<br /> <br /> LSU has lost 18 underclassmen to the draft over the past two years. Since the league's title run began in 2007, the SEC has had nearly as many early departures drafted (109) as the next two leagues combined. The Pacific-12 (57) and Atlantic Coast Conference (54) rank second and third, according to research by STATs, Inc.<br /> <br /> The 49 first-round selections among underclassmen during that span tops the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten combined (44).<br /> <br /> The exodus can affect the quality of play at certain positions even with a new wave of four- and five-star recruits coming in annually around the SEC, which had its seven-year run of producing BCS champions halted by Florida State in January.<br /> <br /> Alabama had three junior cornerbacks picked in the first round from 2010-2013, and a position of strength became a weak link last season with several young players thrust into big roles.<br /> <br /> "I think we recruit a lot of good players in this league," said Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, who played 14 freshmen last season. "What it does for me, and what it does for our team, I guess is what I should say, is the players turn over more quickly so you play more players.<br /> <br /> "It's not that those players aren't good players, but in some cases they might be playing a little bit before they're ready to play."<br /> <br /> Alabama will have five-star freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey vying for playing time at cornerback when camp starts.<br /> <br /> The SEC has had 60 underclassmen enter the draft the past two years, counting players who graduated but had eligibility remaining. Not all have been hot commodities.<br /> <br /> The latest group had six juniors picked in the first round and nine go undrafted, nearly one-third of the 28 SEC players who declared for the draft.<br /> <br /> Former LSU and NFL defensive lineman Marcus Spears said the players leaving creates a big challenge in having enough depth to overcome injuries and other issues, and forces coaches like Miles to plan ahead in recruiting.<br /> <br /> "You have to be able to look out maybe a year or two years in advance and kind of start honing in on those guys that can come in and replace them and play right away," said Spears, now an analyst for the SEC Network. "When you lose those guys, it is a huge void, especially those underclassmen that apply for the draft. Having guys in the stable is very important."<br /> <br /> The good news for newcomers: There are plenty of opportunities for playing time, partly because of players not sticking around for senior seasons.<br /> <br /> Here are a few:<br /> <br /> - Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen is competing to replace 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.<br /> <br /> -LSU tailback Leonard Fournette, considered the nation's top-rated prospect, should carve out a role for himself after Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue both left with eligibility remaining.<br /> <br /> -Alabama's Cam Robinson is the apparent front-runner to replace left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio.<br /> <br /> Some prospects are weighing their career options long before they arrive on campus.<br /> <br /> "I've had three (prospects), and these guys are like 16 years old, they're saying, `If I go out and don't make it, you're going to put me back on scholarship if I want to come back, right?'" Saban said. "I'm saying this guy just got his driver's license and he's got this figured out already. ... But still they've really minimized in some cases their chances of being successful, having a career as a football player."
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 1 year ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 1 year ago )
Sports
Jackets, Mississippi St. clash in Orange Bowl
No. 10 Georgia Tech has the nation's second-ranked rushing offense. No. 8 Mississippi State has held seven of its 12 opponents under 125 yards on the ground.
5:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Ole Miss defense braces for TCU offense in Peach Bowl
Mississippi and TCU were part of the playoffs story in 2014. Each team was part of the chase. Each team fell short of the coveted semifinals.
5:01PM ( 1 year ago )
Kiffin shining again after season of redemption
Lane Kiffin was modest in his goals and complimentary about the team he'll be facing in the Sugar Bowl. He went on and on about how much he's learned from Nick Saban, while insisting it's no big deal when his boss yells at him. Very un-Kiffin-like, you might say.
11:02PM ( 1 year ago )
College Sports
Basketball: Region semifinal slate tips off today around northeast Georgia (full schedule)
Area regions have -- outside of 8-A -- determined their state tournament participants; starting today those teams will duke it out for seeding and a shot region glory
By AccessWDUN Staff
5:46PM ( 2 hours from now )
Injured NASCAR star Tony Stewart is out of bed and walking again, entertaining fans while live-streaming himself on a treadmill Friday
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Injured NASCAR star Tony Stewart is out of bed and walking again, entertaining fans while live-streaming from a treadmill Friday.At the same time Stewart was offering detail...
1:44PM ( 1 hour ago )
7-AAA Tournament: Indians, Spartans, Vikings join Banks Co. boys in semifinals
East Hall, West Hall, and Lumpkin County all took wins Thursday in the Region 7-AAA Tournament at the East Hall gym to join Banks County in advancing to the Class AAA boys state tournament...
12:17PM ( 3 hours ago )
7-AAA Tournament: West Hall girls end state tourney drought; East Hall, Banks march on
Anna McKendree was five years old the last time the West Hall girls basketball team reached the state playoffs...
11:49AM ( 3 hours ago )
Wrestling: 31 area grapplers move on to traditional semifinals
Plenty of northeast Georgia's best high school wrestlers still have a chance to claim gold this weekend at the GHSA Traditional Championships in Duluth, as 31 area grapplers battled their way into the semifinal round on Thursday.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:22AM ( 4 hours ago )