OK, this much we know: Marvin Austin will not be suiting up for North Carolina this Saturday when the Tar Heels take on the LSU Tigers in Atlanta.
And due to two ongoing investigations, one pertaining to possible illegal contact with an agent and the other to alleged academic impropriety, it’s possible that Austin won’t suit up at all this season for Carolina.
No official word has come down on Austin’s eligibility yet, but the news out of Chapel Hill ain’t good for Tar Heels fans.
But forget about college football for a second.
What about the NFL?
As an All-ACC defensive tackle entering his senior year, how does Austin’s suspension affect the 2011 NFL Draft?
The simple answer: it doesn’t.
Whatever mess Austin got himself into at Carolina, whatever schoolwork he allegedly did or did not do, none of it matters to the NFL.
Prior to the investigations, Austin was widely considered as a first-round draft pick come next April.
Many NFL talent evaluators and draft gurus believe he could be the first defensive tackle taken and hear his name called within the first ten picks.
All of that remains the same regardless of whether Austin plays another down of college football or not.
In three seasons at North Carolina, Austin has shown plenty of production to merit such an evaluation.
Scouts love Austin’s size and athleticism.
At 6'3" and 305 pounds, Austin is a load-and-a-half for any offensive lineman to handle. Scouts say that Austin’s lateral quickness is what separates him from other players his size.
Couple those physical gifts with Austin’s relentless attitude and high motor, and you can see why he is such a coveted prospect.
Of course, Austin isn’t a finished product.
Some critics say that Austin relies too much on his natural athleticism and ability, something he won’t be able to do as much in the NFL.
At times, Austin’s first movement off the ball is straight up. Austin will most likely have to fix this as he will be going against guys as athletic and strong as he is, if not more so, at the next level.
Whether or not Austin will be the first defensive tackle to be taken next spring remains to be seen since there are other quality prospects in the draft class.
Allen Bailey from Miami and Lawrence Marsh from Florida are only two names that could find their way into the first round.
Even if Austin is the first defensive tackle selected, he probably will not be the first defensive lineman taken.
The front-runner for that honor is defensive end Robert Quinn, Austin’s teammate at North Carolina. Quinn has drawn comparisons to former Tar Heel Julius Peppers.
Cameron Heyward, an end from Ohio State, also projects to be a high pick.
The one possible effect of this suspension for Austin is that he may have to go to the combine next year and perform better than originally expected in order to solidify his draft status.
That’s nitpicking, but NFL teams will likely want to see that the tools are still there if Austin doesn’t have the luxury of playing real football this year.
The challenge for Austin will be to continue to train at a high level without the reward of a game each week, so that he’s in his best possible shape when he works out for scouts.
If the NCAA rules Austin ineligible for the season, his reputation may take a hit in Chapel Hill, but it won’t in the eyes of scouts.
Sure, cheating on class work, if Austin did that, is an indefensible mistake. And accepting free travel and lodging is against NCAA rules.
But Austin, by all accounts, is a good guy and a better teammate. This isn’t a character issue with Marvin Austin.
Owners don’t need to worry about what they will get in return for their investment if they throw first-round riches at Austin next year.
If Austin doesn’t get to play again with his college teammates then that will undoubtedly hurt him. He will have let his teammates, his program, and his school down.
But as far as being a high pick in the 2011 NFL Draft?
That’s still a lock.
Follow Teddy Mitrosilis on Twitter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.