Over a four-day span, the Tech football team learned that four of its best players would not be returning for their senior seasons.
Last Friday junior wide receiver Demaryius Thomas declared he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. On Monday, three more junior Jackets held a joint press conference to announce that they had made the same decision: B-back Jonathan Dwyer, defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett.
The players mentioned that they prayed and talked to their families before coming to their decisions.
“With careful thought, consideration, and much prayer, I have decided to enter the 2010 NFL Draft,” Burnett said in his opening statement.
All four of the players will be tough to replace in the upcoming season. Thomas and Dwyer combined for 2,589 yards of total offense last season, and Morgan and Burnett combined for 140 tackles.
Dwyer was Tech’s most hyped player entering the 2009 season and he did not disappoint. Dwyer led the team in rushing yards last season with 1,395 yards, matching his total from 2008. He also added 14 touchdowns.
Dwyer leaves as the school’s sixth-leading rusher with 3,226 yards. He also is second on the rushing touchdown list with 35. Dwyer’s success at Tech garnered national attention and he is projected by NFL scouts as a late first-round to early second-round pick.
“When I got my information back from the NFL and saw what round was projected, I knew it was the best fit for me to have the opportunity to go play at the next level. I’ve dreamed about playing in the NFL since I was five years old,” Dwyer said.
Thomas was the only Tech player to catch more than eight passes last season. He finished 2009 with 46 receptions for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns. Thomas ended his career with 120 receptions for 2,339 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In Morgan, Tech loses its most productive defensive lineman. Morgan was tied for fourth in the nation in sacks with 12 and had a total of 18.5 tackles for loss. He was the 2009 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. Morgan finished his Tech career with 19.5 sacks and six fumble recoveries.
Many NFL scouts project Morgan to be a top-10 selection in the Draft, which would result in a multi-million dollar deal.
“I don’t necessarily think it was an easy decision, but it’s probably an easier transition, having that knowledge of possibly being a first-round pick,” Morgan said.
Burnett was more successful in 2008 than 2009 statistically, but he still put up a solid season. He was second on the team with 85 tackles and led the team with four interceptions. Burnett leaves Tech tied for second with 14 career interceptions and 235 career tackles.
Burnett’s draft status is uncertain, but unlike Dwyer and Morgan he did not spend much time worrying about his draft stock.
“I really didn’t want to get caught up in the rounds, because I really didn’t pay attention to it. A lot of people were saying different things, so I never really paid attention to it—I just ignored it all,” Burnett said.
Over the next few weeks, the soon-to-be NFL players will be very busy. They will drop out of school and train for the NFL combine on February 21-24, where they will get evaluated on a multitude of physical and mental tasks in preparation for the Draft.