College football’s 2011 season featured several star athletes that are not in the final year of their eligibility. Some would be better suited for the NFL than others, but not all should make the leap just yet.
Here is a small list of the best non-seniors in the college game and my thoughts on where they should spend the 2012 season.
Tyrann Mathieu (CB, LSU): Stay in college
This may be the easiest call on the list — the Honey Badger needs to keep taking whatever he wants; just keep doing it in the college game. For one, Mathieu is only a sophomore, so his immaturity would likely be the most glaring if he jumped to the pros. The cornerback and punt returner had an amazing season, but he needs to get better on defense before he looks to the NFL, because it has a lot of room to grow. Keep in mind that he’s a tiny 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, so if he polishes his game in the next year or two, he could be one of the rare freaks that can cover a 6-foot-6 receiver, despite being nearly a foot shorter.
Montee Ball (RB, Wisconsin): Stay in college
This one has the most to do with my own personal wishes. If Ball stays in college for another year, he will be the most dominant running back in the nation. Seeing what he could accomplish in his senior season with that big Wisconsin line clearing the way would be very interesting. He scored a Big Ten-record 34 touchdowns this year, with 29 of them being on the ground (a Wisconsin record). Another year older, another year wiser … right? Let’s see what he can do next season.
Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor): Go now!
Griffin already has his degree and is now wrapping up graduate school, so the young man could start law school, which he has aspirations of attending. But if he has any drive to play in the NFL, he might as well enter the 2012 NFL Draft. Baylor’s 9-3 season is basically the ceiling of how good that program can be. So if Griffin already won the Heisman, can’t win a national title with the squad he has surrounding him and has skills and intelligence that seem to translate to the pro game, why would he stay at Baylor?
Matt Barkley (QB, USC): Stay in college
Barkley could be the Heisman favorite next year. His Trojans may be the preseason No. 1. His family is quite well-off. What would be his reason for leaving college a year early? Barkley has spent his entire college career dealing with someone else’s issues, trying to lead a program that was under sanctions for missteps by Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush. The team will have all restrictions lifted in 2012 and they’re looking really good. It seems like next year could be a lot of fun if Barkley sticks around!