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Opting out or holding out has been a trend in college football and the NFL for years now. Professionals will refuse to participate in offseason workouts or practice in hopes of a new contract. Take a step down, and NFL-ready players are skipping bowl games so a freak injury does not cause their draft stock to plummet.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, elite college football players opted out of the season to prepare for the draft. Without punishments either. Four of the top 10 picks in the 2021 NFL drafts were opt-outs, despite not playing a football game in over a year.
Something borderline “historic” occurred on May 20. For the first time at the high school level, a big named, blue-chip recruit opted out of their senior season to prepare for college football.
Five-star running back Jaydon Blue announced his decision last Thursday, saying he will focus on his academics and off-the-field training before enrolling in January. According to a report, the decision was clearly communicated with Steve Sarkisian and his staff.
When speaking at the Touchdown Club of Houston luncheon on Wednesday, the Texas head coach was asked about the specific scenario without being able to mention Blue by name (NCAA rules). Sarkisian said he has “put a lot of thought into it” and thinks Blue’s opt-out was just the beginning.
“I think this is bigger than one individual,” said Sarkisian. I think this is going to be something that we have to wrap our heads around. I do not think this is a one-off, one high school kid. This is somewhat of a trickle-down effect that we are dealing with from professionals, to college athletes, and now, potentially at the high school level. It’s a relatively big issue that we have got to start wrapping our brains around.”
Sarkisian continued, saying he does not know how to feel about high school players opting out. Supporting the people involved with the situation should the priority No. 1, though.
“I don’t necessarily know what’s good, what’s bad, what’s right, what’s wrong as it pertains to the University, the individuals, the kids on our team, and their future in the NFL,” said Sarkisian. “Our biggest thing we’re trying to do is support the high school coaches and knowing the job they have to do and support the families and young men that are even maybe talking about making this type of decision.”
If the 2021 NFL draft is any indicator, high school players opting out of their senior seasons will have no repercussions. With how talented of a running back Blue is, the likelihood of him still having a scholarship and enrolling at Texas is high. Even if he was out of the game for nearly a year.
Sarkisian could very well be right — this is not the end, it is the beginning. College coaches are going to have to adapt and even set the precedent for what is right and what is wrong.
Texas finds itself as being the guinea pig for top high school recruits opting out.