The Pac-12 Conference champion Oregon Ducks (11-2) are prepping for their 2019 season finale and biggest challenge of the season. The Ducks have a chance to win the biggest game of their UO careers against No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3) on Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. in the Rose Bowl (ESPN).
For seniors like quarterback Justin Herbert, linebackers Troy Dye and La’Mar Winston, it’s the last 60 minutes in a Duck uniform. There is a chance the ‘Granddaddy of them All’ could be the finale for a few draft eligible Ducks.
One of those players is cornerback Thomas Graham, Jr. An honorable mention All-Pac-12 Conference selection, Graham requested an NFL evaluation, which tells players if they are projected in the first or second rounds. After testing the waters, Graham’s evaluation came back, suggesting that he should return for his senior season.
Graham has yet to make a decision and won’t announce his plans until after the Rose Bowl, but he has had some important conversations to help his process.
I talked to all the seniors and they just said, play the game, focus on the game, and then after have the discussion with your family. Outside of the NFL evaluation, I’ve told coach Cristobal that I am focused on this game. At the end of the day, that’s the main point, these seniors owe too much and I’m not the type to sit out... Whatever decision I make will be the best decision for me. -Thomas Graham
What is the biggest contributing factor for Graham?
How comfortable I am with my play. If I don’t feel I am good enough to go play at the next level, or that I need to learn more, then it would be dumb for me to leave. I have a great coach in coach Donte (Williams) here. -Thomas Graham
The junior, who has made 38 consecutive starts, is tied for seventh among active Pac-12 Conference players in career interceptions with seven. He played a major role in one of Oregon’s strongest defenses in history. This year, Oregon’s 15.7 points allowed per game in 2019 is the lowest in school history since 1966, holding 12 of 13 opponents under their season scoring average.
If all the draft-eligible Ducks (Jordon Scott, Austin Faoliu, Deommodore Lenoir, Graham Jr.) decided to stay for 2020, Oregon would return all starters on the defense except for one: linebacker Troy Dye.
The glitz and the glam of the NFL is inviting but should Graham Jr. return, he would be leading a secondary unit full of veterans (Lenoir, Brazy Breeze, Nick Pickett) with added up-and-comers (Verone McKinley III, Mykael Wright) in what could be a dangerous group of ball-hawks for Oregon's 2020 defense.