Every year, grown men and women across the country swear, curse, throw their hands up in disgust, and cry for hours at the news that inevitably comes from every college campus with a major sports program.
"This just in... Junior 'Star Player' has decided to declare early for the NFL draft".
Hearts break, puppies die, pacemakers explode, and fans take to the street with torches wearing little more than underpants and their emotions on their sleeve.
Every school goes through it. For South Carolina fans, it seems as though it is an epidemic that needs to be cured.
I know that most schools go through this. For a team that is trying to get over the mediocre hump, it can be most horrifying.
Ko Simpson, Sidney Rice, Troy Williamson, Captain Munnerlyn, Clifton Geathers, Emanuel Cook, Jared Cook—all great SEC players that bolted early. Sidney Rice and Troy Williamson could have actually played together if they stayed through their careers.
Sidney Rice, Troy Williamson, and Kenny McKinley playing together in 2006 would have been quite a scary site for opposing corners.
For some, it works out very well. Sidney Rice became a second round pick and Troy Williamson was a first round pick. They both have made their money, even though Sidney Rice is the only star out of the group.
For others, it has been a complete disaster. Emmanuel Cook went undrafted, and has yet to cling on to a team. Ko Simpson has bounced from team to team and Captain Munnerlyn (while productive so far in the NFL), was drafted in the seventh round and could have benefited from another year in school.
This year, South Carolina has a small crop of juniors, but some of them are extremely important to the program and to the team.
Which ones could make the jump? Which ones have no chance? Which ones might make the jump but also have no chance?
No Chance, Will NOT Declare... The "Who Dat" List
Some underclassmen just do not contribute much. They hold a roster spot, and can be called upon in case of injury. Beyond that, there is nothing on the resume that would be able to get them a sniff at being drafted or even picked up in free agency.
Byron McKnight, DE
Kevin White, WR
Chris Vaughn, LS
Ryan Broadhead, C
Joey Scribner-Howard, K
Marty Markett, CB
Brandon Davis, CB
Jay Wooten, K
These players may contribute and have the opportunity to play some. However, for them to even be considered as NFL caliber players, they would have to surprise everyone and explode onto the scene.
These players are very, very, very, unlikely to make the jump.
C.C. Whitlock, CB
Eric Baker, RB
Melvin Ingram, DT
Kyle Nunn, T
Quintin Richardson, T
Stephen Flint, WR
Jason Barnes, WR
These players have been consistent contributors, maybe out of a backup role. Some of these players can slip into the starting lineup or be a mainstay in rotation and put up huge numbers.
The potential is there, but these players would still be a big surprise if they jump.
Akeem Aguste, S—Hard hitter and pretty good in coverage. His stock isn't quite there yet. The positional switch from CB to S hurts (from the NFL draft standpoint, not his chance of success on the team). He is also a bit undersized.
Antonio Allen, S—Could be very good. He gets his chance to start. It would take a monster year for him to jump, but it wouldn't be surprising, given the recent jump of Clifton Geathers.
Travian Robertson, DT—A player with good size, a fair amount of experience, and a projected starter, Travian Robertson has the look of an elite player. Then you look at his production. It just isn't there. He has made plays for the team, and looked good last year before tearing his ACL at the Ole' Miss game. Applied for a medical redshirt, so obviously his eligibility is important to him.
By high chance, I mean relatively speaking. These players already have some sort of track record, and have played well enough for some buzz to be garnered around them.
If they have big seasons, any of these players could jump.
Shaq Wilson, LB—Shaq stepped in admirably when Rodney Paulk went down with a season ending injury. A tireless worker, Wilson will be very productive this year, and will give fans reasons to be worried about an early exit.
Stephen Garcia, QB—The much maligned QB has taken a lot of heat for his work ethic, but has performed very well at times. Steve Spurrier sees a great deal of potential in him (thus the verbal assault). If Garcia works extremely hard over the summer, he will have every opportunity to succeed. If he improves on his good 2009 numbers, he would at least have a legitimate reason to test the waters.
The Player Most Likely to Jump
If I had to put money on which player is the most likely to jump, I would put my money on Garcia. His constant ridicule and the presence of teacher's pet Connor Shaw could be sitting in the back of his mind.
Even if he has a great season though, I think he will be back. In fact, I don't see any reason to think any of these players will go early to the draft.
I could have guessed that Clifton Geathers would have jumped last year. No one stands out in this group as having that sort of attitude. Is this the year that South Carolina finally gets the peace of mind that comes with the junior class returning to be seniors? We will see.