Three of the four University of Miami underclassmen expected to contemplate entering the 2016 NFL Draft spoke to the media Monday, all of them saying they were focusing on the final regular-season game Friday at Pittsburgh before they think about it.
Junior cornerbacks Artie Burns and Corn Elder, and junior receiver Stacy Coley gave the answer they were expected to give, with Coley flashing a grin when asked, “Do you feel like you’re ready for the pros?”
Said Coley: “Right now I honestly don’t know. I’m not thinking about the pros right now. We’re just focusing on Pitt.’’
The 2016 draft is April 28-30, and the deadline for underclassmen to apply for early eligibility is Jan. 18.
When asked how good UM could be if every underclassman returns for next season (including draft-eligible, third-year sophomore linebacker Al-Quadin Muhammad), Coley said, “Oh man, we could be real good. Even if we do leave we’d still be real good. With the ability of Brad [Kaaya] throwing, with our receiving corps, with [receiver Lawrence] Cage[r]. Yeah, we could be real good.’’
Coley, who leads UM and is third in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 600 receiving yards, said he’ll make the decision with the help of his mother, family and high school coach.
“We’re in college right now,’’ he said. “We have more games to come, so it can go either way. Right now it’s not hard for me to block it out.”
Elder, who has two interceptions, 11 passes defended and a punt and kickoff returned for touchdowns, indicated he would think about it “after the season. … I’m just focusing on the season and trying to improve every day.”
Burns, who has five interceptions this season, is 6-0, 197 pounds and a gifted hurdler with great speed and athleticism. His mother died Oct. 27 and he has two young brothers still in school. He is believed to be the most NFL-ready, though by staying he could earn his degree and get that much better.
Burns said “when the offseason comes,’’ he’ll “look at the plays I made, look at the plays I got beat on and study myself, study other good corners, see what I can do better, take coaching and improve from there.
“After the season, when we play our last bowl game, then I have to make that decision.”
None of those four UM players (including Muhammad) were among this season’s 41 top-rated underclassmen listed by NFLDraftScout.com, used by CBSSports.com. All four are expected to get projections from the NFL Draft Advisory Board to help them make their decisions. This year the advisory board will only project if a player might go in the first or second round. Otherwise they’re advised to return to school.
That’s just fine with defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, who said Monday that unless someone is projected to go in the first round, “the longer they do this in college, the better they’re going to be. … I mean, everybody has got to do what they’ve got to do. [But] if you’re thinking you’re going to be a lot better a year from now, why would you sell yourself short?”