A six-pack of Canes notes on a Tuesday night:
▪ First, let’s make this clear: The jump in the number of college football players who turn pro early – and then get picked later than expected, or not at all – is a college football problem, not a UM problem. And what you’re about to read is not a criticism of the Canes players or the young men who bypass college eligibility to turn pro.
But for a third consecutive year, the lesson for UM players, and others, couldn’t be more clear: When you think about turning pro, don’t assume the most ambitious draft projections are going to come true. Be prepared for a letdown.
Joe Jackson had aspirations of being a second-round pick, third at the worst. He went in the fifth (to Dallas).
“Yeah, I’m not going to lie, everyone expected I’d go higher,” he said on a conference call with Dallas media. “I thought I would go higher. Whoever gets me is taking a chance on me, so I’m going to prove them right.”
Travis Homer, seen by some evaluators as a third- or fourth-rounder, instead went in the sixth (to Seattle), the absolute low end of his projections.
Guard Venzell Boulware – who had already graduated but had a year of eligibility – thought there was a decent chance he would be drafted. He couldn’t even get a contract as an undrafted free agent, instead settling for merely a tryout with Denver this weekend.
Over the past three years, nine UM players turned pro early. Only one (first-rounder David Njoku) was drafted before the third day.
Two of the nine – Joseph Yearby and Boulware – weren’t drafted at all. Brad Kaaya went in the sixth round, R.J. McIntosh in the fifth and Kendrick Norton in the seventh – all later than they believed they would be selected. Mark Walton went in the fourth round but was cut by Cincinnati this month after a third arrest.
There are certainly circumstances that warrant turning pro. Some players are in financial need, as was the case with Walton. In Boulware’s case, he had earned his degree.
And we can understand anybody wanting to begin their career as soon as they’re mentally and physically ready. So there’s no criticism here.
But remember the time when players would turn pro only if they would be high-round picks? Those days are gone.
WQAM’s Joe Zagacki made a great point on Hurricane Hotline this week, that players should be “great” at something to turn pro early – or set a school record or do something that is genuinely great. That doesn’t happen anymore.
“We have to do a really good job of educating our players on life after football and how important the first and second contract is,” defensive coordinator Blake Baker told Zagacki in the wake of this past draft.
“Thirty four percent of the underclassmen that declared early didn’t get drafted. We have to do a good job of educating our guys’ parents and guardians. We want them to succeed more than anybody. They have to make their own decisions. Educate them 100 percent is the best course of action.”
Kudos to Shaq Quarterman and Mike Pinckney for returning for their senior seasons; they might have been third-day picks otherwise.
UM, incidentally, still pays for the education of players who turn pro early and return years later to get a degree. The school said last season that the policy would not be changed. But even if it did change, I suspect Canes players would still turn pro. And they’re hardly alone.
The 135 non-senior draft entrants was a record this season, up from 119 last year (also a record) and 84 in 2014. Over the last five years before this draft (2014-2018), of the 469 total underclassmen who declared early, 136 (28.9 percent) went undrafted.
▪ I wonder if the Dolphins will live to regret not taking Joe Jackson. They picked Wisconsin linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel instead at 151; Jackson went 165th.
“I’m a big body,” Jackson told Dallas media. “I’m going to be a hammer against the run and a guy who will be polished against the pass rush. I can go and get a quarterback as well, so I’m an every down player.”
When the Cowboys drafted him, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli asked him: “You ready to go bite somebody’s chin off?”
“I’m always ready,” Jackson responded.
On Dallas drafting Michael Jackson seven spots before Dallas took him, Joe Jackson said: “It happened so fast. One moment you’re celebrating for him, the next you’re getting called yourself. So there is a lot of emotions.”
▪ Seahawks GM John Schneider likes what he got in Homer: “He can [be] an every down back. He’s really tough. He’s only 20 years old. He’s a grit guy for us, hell of a special teams player. We actually had him in the third down category because he had such good hands coming out of the backfield. Really good instincts.”
▪ Love what Browns GM John Dorsey told Sheldrick Redwine when calling to inform him he would be drafting him in the fourth round.
“We must have five or six guys from The U on our team. We’re probably going to add another one here. You ready?” Dorsey said.
They also have Njoku, running back Duke Johnson Jr., defensive ends Chad Thomas and Olivier Vernon and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong. And Trayone Gray signed after the draft with the Browns, which has former UM star Alonzo Highsmith in a high-ranking position in their front office.
▪ Baker, incidentally, said of Quarterman and Pinckney: “Those two dudes have been rock stars – they’re everything you want in linebackers and from a leadership standpoint. I’m excited to watch Zach McCloud as well. Didn’t have a chance to watch him do much football activity [because of a wrist injury]. He’s a kid you want your daughter to marry. Stand-up guy.”
What stood out to Baker about his defense this spring?
“Our overall speed on defense is phenomenal,” he said. “And the way that they worked. They have a blue collar attitude, want to get better every day. As a coach, it’s very refreshing. I want it to be a player run defense and we’re headed in the right direction.”
Baker, by the way, said: “I wouldn’t be shocked to see dramatic changes in some of the bodies [of Canes players in the next few months]. Once coach [David] Feeley and their staff gets their hands on them a little bit longer.”
▪ Rivals.com has UM’s 2020 class fourth, behind only LSU, Alabama and Clemson after quarterback Tyler Van Dyke’s commitment on Monday. What’s more, the Canes have more (nonbinding) four-star commits (10) than any team in the country.