Non-seniors flock to draft, and to NFL Combine

The NFL combine is the first test for 86 players giving up a year of college.

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North quarterback Tajh Boyd (10), of Clemson, looks to pass during the first half of the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game against the South on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Photo: Butch Dill, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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– Cordarrelle Patterson, Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd, first-round picks by the Vikings last year, were three of 73 non-seniors who left college early to enter the 2013 NFL draft.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd nearly made it 74.

Boyd was convinced he would leave college after his Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP performance in a victory over LSU as a junior. Instead of reacting to his emotions, Boyd evaluated his situation over the next month and opted to return for his senior season.

“I felt like I could’ve made a move last year, but at the same time I wanted to go back and make sure I was fully ready to make that leap,” Boyd said.

His decision to return to school is a rarity among top college football players now. While Boyd prepares for the NFL, so will a record number of underclassmen — 98 in all — who have declared for the draft.

That number creates a deep draft class for 2014, but also some players who might be ill-equipped for the NFL. Teams will have a chance to sort through the eligible players beginning today at the NFL combine.

Extra seasoning

Boyd’s statistics in 2013 were similar to his stats from 2012, but his draft stock likely dropped thanks to poor performances in big games and a rough Senior Bowl practice week. He definitely will be drafted after Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Manziel and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, all non-seniors.

But Boyd accomplished a few team and individual goals in his final season and felt he matured on the field.

The Tigers finished the season 11-2 and defeated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

“I understand defenses a little bit more,” Boyd said. “I feel like I was able to operate the system better at Clemson. I just wanted to take what I learned from there and just apply it here.”

Boyd met with many NFL teams at the Senior Bowl in January, and hopes to impress more of them at the combine. Also looking to impress will be the non-seniors who are having their coming out parties here. Of the 98 who are leaving college early, 86 were invited to the combine. Of the 73 underclassmen who declared early last year, 20 were picked on Day 3 (rounds 4-7) and 19 went undrafted.

Following the NBA

“I think more and more, we’re getting the basketball mentality in football that, ‘I can go right from high school to the NBA,’” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “More parents, more players are going to college with the idea that I’m going to be there for three years and then I’m going to get out as fast as I can and get to the NFL.”

Saban supports underclassmen who declare early for the draft if they’re potential first-round choices. Otherwise, he said he thinks players should return to school to get their degree and develop as a senior to enhance their draft status.

Only four of the 98 non-seniors have graduated, including Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard and Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford.

“If I didn’t graduate, I definitely would’ve been back,” Bradford said. “But I felt like getting a degree and doing that part is a major part of college and your life. I’ve seen maybe a handful of them that came out earned their degrees but that was one of the main reasons why I came out as a junior.”

Lots of depth

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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Arizona 2
Boston 6:00 PM
Cleveland
LA Lakers 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Sacramento 6:00 PM
New York
Houston 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Utah 7:00 PM
Memphis
Washington 7:00 PM
Chicago
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Denver
Nashville 0 1st Prd 19:45
New Jersey 0
Calgary 0 1st Prd 19:47
Philadelphia 0
Washington 0 1st Prd 20:00
Columbus 0
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Toronto 6:30 PM
Florida
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Minnesota
NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Arizona
Los Angeles 8:30 PM
Edmonton
San Jose 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ole Miss 0 1st Half 16:44
Alabama 8
Eastern Mich 0 1st Half 18:25
Ball State 5
Kent State 0 1st Half 19:15
Bowling Green 2
Ohio 4 1st Half 15:58
Buffalo 4
Georgetown 5 1st Half 15:54
Butler 5
Toledo 14 1st Half 15:25
Central Mich 7
Rhode Island 2 1st Half 18:25
Dayton 0
Youngstown St 2 1st Half 19:32
Detroit 0
North Carolina 6 1st Half 16:02
Georgia Tech 5
Loyola-Maryland 0 1st Half 18:55
Holy Cross 2
Iowa 6:00 PM
Indiana
Akron 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Army 2 1st Half 18:44
Navy 5
Maryland 7 1st Half 17:25
Rutgers 2
Kennesaw St 0 1st Half 20:00
USC Upstate 0
Jacksonville 2 1st Half 18:58
Fla Gulf Coast 2
Lipscomb 0 1st Half 19:40
Northern Ky 0
Stetson 6:30 PM
North Florida
Wright State 7:00 PM
Ill-Chicago
Western Mich 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
North Dakota
Houston Baptist 7:00 PM
Abilene Christian
NC State 8:00 PM
Clemson
Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Florida
Kentucky 8:00 PM
Georgia
West Virginia 8:00 PM
Kansas
Auburn 8:00 PM
Missouri
Michigan 8:00 PM
Northwestern
Villanova 8:15 PM
Creighton
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 27 2nd Half
UNC-Asheville 36
NJIT 0 1st Half 20:00
UMass Lowell 0
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Kansas State
TCU 7:00 PM
Texas
Fresno State 8:00 PM
Air Force
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Boise State
Nevada 8:00 PM
Colorado State
UNLV 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Wyoming 8:00 PM
Utah State
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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