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College football underclassmen: Should they stay in school or go pro?

National Football Post

With college football’s regular season over and the bowl season under way, this is the time when real speculation about underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft takes place. While focus is generally on predicting if a player will come out early for the draft, we are taking a different approach here. I will be offering insight as to whether players should stay in school or go pro.

1. Kenny Stills, WR, Junior, Oklahoma (6-foot-1, 190 pounds and 4.45 40-yard dash)

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Kenny Stills scores in front of Oklahoma State safety Daytawion Lowe in the season finale. (AP)

A third-year junior that has started since he arrived in Norman, Stills has been expected to come out for the 2013 draft all season. While not a giant, Stills has good height, a wiry, muscular build and legitimate top-end speed to make big plays running with the ball. An explosive athlete, Stills is still working to harness his athleticism when running routes and will need to become sharper and more precise in his routes. Even though he has shown the hand/eye coordination, body control and concentration to make great catches on off-target throws, he still will let the ball into his body on passes within the framework of his body and this leads to him fighting the ball a little, although he almost always makes the catch. Quick to get started up the field after the catch, Stills has the speed to make big plays, but needs to run thru hits and grab tackles more consistently to make big plays at the next level. Overall, Stills would benefit greatly from staying in school another season and would likely be disappointed with where he were drafted if he came out early.

2. Seantrel Henderson, OT, Junior, Miami (6-7, 285, 4.85)
An elite physical talent, Henderson is a far better athlete than football player right now and definitely needs to stay in school for another season. Blessed with rare foot quickness for such a big man, he can kick-slide out to pick up explosive edge rushers with no problem when he is on-time moving at the snap and uses good technique. Uncommon in his ability to change directions, Seantrel can redirect and slide quickly to adjust to quick secondary pass-rush moves. Henderson’s size and natural strength allow him to anchor and hold ground against power rushers and to easily get movement on in-line run blocks. The big issue is that Seantrel is not a consistent player at this point in his career. He does not always anticipate the snap correctly, which limits his initial quickness out of stance and when this happens he ends up bending at the waist and reaching to make contact. He does not block with base/leverage consistently and in the NFL will get pushed around because of it. For a player so highly recruited out of high school, there is no doubt that Henderson’s best chance for long-term NFL success would come from staying at Miami for another season.

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3. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, Junior, LSU (6-6, 310, 4.90)
After flashing the ability to make game-changing plays in 2011, Mingo was expected to have a breakout 2012 season when he started from Day 1. However, despite flashing the athleticism that grabbed everyone’s attention a season ago, Mingo did not produce at a high level in 2012. Too often he was a beat late moving at the snap, stayed upright and high while rushing the passer, was stopped in his initial rush and pretty much stopped fighting to get to the quarterback when his initial attempt was thwarted. Additionally, after displaying explosive change-of-direction ability beating pass blockers inside and outside in 2011, he rarely displayed the ability to beat man with a secondary pass-rush move. Often being out-weighed by 40-plus pounds by offensive linemen, once they got their hands on him the play was generally over. They could stop his pass rush in its tracks and could tie him up and ride him out of the play on running plays at him. Despite his physical talent, Mingo would be making a huge mistake by coming out early.

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