'Tis the season for bowl games and NFL mock drafts.
According to NFL operations: To be eligible for the draft, players must have been out of high school for at least three years and must have used up their college eligibility before the start of the next college football season. Underclassmen and players who have graduated before using all their college eligibility may request the league’s approval to enter the draft early.
The decision to return for a senior year can be more than just not liking where your draft stock is. It can be other things such as wanting to finish your degree, tone your skill to prepare you better for the NFL stage, returning for the complete college experience and improving the team as a whole, etc.
Following his junior season, linebacker Troy Dye also tested the NFL waters and ultimately decided to return to Oregon for his senior year. Whether that was due to his draft stock is not clear, but what is clear is how much fun Dye is having in his final season at Oregon.
On Saturday, Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal addressed the media before the team is released a short Christmas break and then off to the Rose Bowl. Besides the seniors who will be pursuing an NFL career, Cristobal listed some of the juniors on his team that will be testing out the NFL waters:
- Jordon Scott
- Austin Faoliu
- Deommodore Lenoir
- Thomas Graham Jr.
Once we get the information, we provide that information for them to help them make the best decision for them and their future, which they’ve been great about. As a team, we always have an agreement before the season starts to make sure we will always discuss that after our responsibilities of the season are taken care of. — Mario Cristobal
These are four prominent defensive players that Cristobal named who have played together for three years. Defensive tackle Jordon Scott has been integral in stopping the run with his sheer size at 6-foot-1, 322 pounds drawing so much attention of the offensive line. Then comes in other defensive tackle Austin Faoliu to clean up and make the tackle. Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham Jr. have been steady-handed on the outside for Oregon for three years as well. The two know the system in and out and have good chemistry with safeties Jevon Holland, Brady Breeze and Nick Pickett. Both stand at 5-foot-7 and approximately 200 pounds.
WHAT IT MEANS IF THEY GO
It would be a hard hit to the defense if all four left for the NFL, but definitely understandable. A chance to make your dream come true at the NFL level.
Here is who would be the next men up: corner Mykael Wright has seen crucial time as a true freshman and has made an impact on the defensive end as well as on special teams returning two kickoffs for touchdowns this season (USC, Oregon State). DJ James, and Trikweze Bridges were highly rated prospects coming out of Alabama; sophomore Daewood Davis has seen time on both sides of the ball showing off his versatility; and then four-star corner Luke Hill, the No. 10 rated cornerback in the nation, is coming next season.
In terms of replacing Scott and Faoliu, redshirt freshman Andrew Faoliu (Austin’s younger brother) along with sophomore Popo Aumavae along with freshman Kristian Williams, Sua’ava Poti and Keyon Ware-Hudson will have to step up and fill in the holes.
WHAT IT MEANS IF THEY STAY
This Oregon defense that has been on the rise thanks in a lot of part to the four players listed above will continue to be a dominant force next year. 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. The Ducks would return all starters on the defense except for one: linebacker Troy Dye. A hard act to follow, but Cristobal has done it once again on the recruiting front getting two five-star linebackers Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell in the 2020 class.
The defense that was allowing 329.6 yards and 15.7 points per game will be back and maybe even better next year…