University of Miami

Headed to the NFL? Miami’s Brad Kaaya and David Njoku won’t reveal until after bowl

Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) hugs quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) after the University of Miami defeats Duke at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sat., Nov. 26, 2016. The Hurricanes’ career passing record-holder and his talented tight end say they want to focus on preparing for West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) hugs quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) after the University of Miami defeats Duke at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sat., Nov. 26, 2016. The Hurricanes’ career passing record-holder and his talented tight end say they want to focus on preparing for West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Will he or won’t he?

University of Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya isn’t saying yet — at least publicly — whether he will forgo his senior season to declare for the NFL Draft.

The same goes for redshirt sophomore tight end David Njoku, who said coach Mark Richt will reveal what the NFL Draft Advisory Board projects after the bowl game.

About six hours after Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller posted on Twitter that he was “told” Kaaya “is ‘leaning’ toward declaring for the draft,” Kaaya told reporters Thursday at UM’s first open bowl practice that he’s “just focusing in on this bowl game right now.”

The unranked Hurricanes (8-4) are preparing to face No. 14 West Virginia (10-2) on Dec. 28 in the Russell Athletic Bowl at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is asked on Thursday, Dec. 15, about his upcoming decision regarding whether to enter the NFL Draft after this season

“I’ll probably figure out things the day after it ends,” Kaaya said. “But right now, I’m just focused on this game. We haven’t won a bowl game in like 10 years, so that’s a pretty big deal to this school. Right now, it’s just all about beating West Virginia because that’s a damn good football team. I can’t be thinking about anything else besides their defense.”

Kaaya broke Miami’s all-time career passing record in the last regular-season game against Duke. He now has 9,686 aerial yards, which ranks sixth on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time list.

Ken Dorsey, who led Miami to its last national title in 2001, was the former UM career leader with 9,565 yards from 1999-2002.

This season, Kaaya has completed 237 of 387 passes for 3,250 yards, with 23 touchdowns to seven interceptions.

Late last week, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, during a national teleconference, said he believed Kaaya should return for his senior season to give himself a chance to be selected in the first round. Kiper projected Kaaya would likely go in the third round, “maybe second,” depending on how he worked out on Pro Day, if he came out early.

On Dec. 7, Miller had Kaaya going in the second round at 38th overall, behind Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame and Deshaun Watson of Clemson.

Hurricanes tight end David Njoku after practice on Thursday, Dec. 1, addresses his pending decision on whether or not to leave early for the NFL Draft.

West Virginia is 98th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up 255.7 yards per game, and 78th in total defense, allowing 431.2 yards.

But the Mountaineers are best when it comes to keeping points off the scoreboard. They allow only 23.4 points a game, 36th-best in the nation.

“It’s a very good all-around team,” Kaaya said. “Just really tough, disciplined. They tackle well.”

Kaaya was asked how he drowns out the noise of all the draft talk.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I just focus on me and focus on this stuff. I just play Xbox and watch film. I don’t got nothing much better to do. I don’t really check Twitter because people on Twitter can say one thing [and] a week from now say a different thing.

“I mean, stuff changes every two weeks, it seems like. … Imean, people change like the weather.”

Njoku, the speedy, nimble 6-4, 245-pounder out of Cedar Grove, N.J., was asked if he had made his decision.

“No, I haven’t,” he said. “I’m going to worry about that after the bowl game.”

Njoku said Richt will likely withhold the NFL’s projections so the players “can stay focused — which I agree with.”

Is it tough not to think about?

“I mean, it’s exciting,” said Njoku. “But I’m just trying to stay focused for West Virginia. You know what I’m saying? We’ll worry about that afterwards… I guess whenever it hits me it’ll hit me. It’ll hit you guys when you guys see as well.”

Njoku is the Canes’ third-leading receiver, with 38 catches for 654 yards (17.2 yards-per-catch) and seven touchdowns. Known for his acrobatic plays, he was the national high-jumping champion as a senior at Cedar Grove. At times this season, Njoku vaulted over opponents or flipped into the end zone. His younger brother Evidence — a 6-4, 195-pound receiver — has verbally committed to UM’s Class of 2017.

Junior defensive end Chad Thomas, who leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and has 4.5 sacks, was also asked if he has thought about the draft.

“No comment,” he said.

Thomas called West Virginia “a great opponent,” but he said their ranking does not serve as motivation for the unranked Canes, who are favored by 3 points.

“I’m a football player,” Thomas said. “Any team they put in front of us, I’m going to work hard for and get ready for and respect them as an opponent.”

▪ Graduate transfer cornerback Adrian Colbert, who had surgery to repair a broken forearm after the Notre Dame game, practiced Thursday and has been added to the depth chart for the bowl game. He is expected to play.

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