Winners, losers from college's silly season


Published: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2003 at 1:29 a.m.

Here is our silly season question of the day - what do Peter Christofilakas, Lynaris Elpheage and George Wrightster all have in common?

Facts

AT A GLANCE

The Buckeyes made out like bandits. Receiver Michael Jenkins and defensive tackle Will Smith both decided to stay put. And that's not to mention Maurice Clarett, who toyed with the idea of challenging the draft and coming out after his freshman year.

No, those aren't the real names of the three guys on "Friends".

No, they aren't indicted Arthur Andersen executives.

No, it's not the starting frontcourt for the Lithuanian National Team.

The answer is that all three are college football players who have declared early for the NFL Draft. They are among 30 or so players, depending on whether any of them who haven't hired agents change their minds by Saturday, who made the deadline and decided to go pro.

Golf has its silly season, the period of time when players grab all of the money they can playing unofficial events at the end of the season. This is college football's version, the time from the last bowl game until the Wednesday deadline.

Some of them make a lot of sense like Andre Johnson, Charles Rogers and Jonathan Sullivan. Some make you scratch your head. Some make you say, "Peter who?"

It was a few years ago that I wrote a scathing column critical of the decisions of Gator receivers Travis Taylor and Darrell Jackson for turning pro. They showed me. Maybe I've just become numb to the whole process, but you won't hear me criticize a player for leaving school early.

It's their lives, not mine.

If players like UF's Jabar Gaffney last year and Clint Mitchell this year choose to turn their backs on a school that gave them second and third chances, hey, that's their call. If Arkansas defensive back Ken Hamlin, who was given the ultimate mulligan after a pair of DUIs and was allowed to play the whole season for the Razorbacks, decides to thumb his nose at the coach who gave him the opportunity at the risk of losing respect, so be it.

After Willis McGahee, it's a wonder anyone with a chance of being drafted decided to return to school.

This is something Florida fans are used to. In the last seven seasons, 17 Gators have decided to give up their eligibility a year early. On the other hand, Southern Miss has never had a player leave early. But which team would you rather be a fan of?

No, this isn't a column about which players made good decisions and which didn't. It's about which teams won or lost during the silly season.

1. Ohio State: Winning a national championship usually means losing a bunch of players. Florida lost both of its starting wide receivers after 1996. Miami had its share of defections after the 2001 title.

But the Buckeyes made out like bandits. Receiver Michael Jenkins and defensive tackle Will Smith both decided to stay put. And that's not to mention Maurice Clarett, who toyed with the idea of challenging the draft and coming out after his freshman year.

2. Auburn: True, the Tigers did lose tight end Robert Johnson, but it could have been much worse.

Linebackers Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas both decided to come back for another year. That means the Auburn defense will be a force again this season.

3. Mississippi: The Rebels were on the brink of returning to the bottom of the SEC West if Eli Manning went out. But he followed the path of his brother, Peyton, and decided to return for his senior season.

Mark down Oct. 4 on your schedules, the day Eli tries to become the first Manning to beat the Gators in The Swamp.

4. Texas: The Longhorns got a scare when receiver Roy Williams addressed the media this week with the news he had changed his mind and decided to go pro. He was kidding. His return makes Texas that much more dangerous next season, even with Mack Brown as the coach.

5. Miami: The Hurricanes lost McGahee and Johnson, but it could have been worse.

1. Florida: It may help in the long run, but losing a quarterback like Rex Grossman (whose NFL stock is rising rapidly) can't help. Still, the one area where Florida couldn't afford to lose players was on the defensive line and the Gators surprisingly lost a pair in Ian Scott and Clint Mitchell.

2. Georgia: The Bulldogs already were losing their offensive line to graduation and two of their best defenders in Boss Bailey and Tony Gilbert. Losing Sullivan hurts, but the defections of Musa Smith and Chris Clemons proves again championships often come with a price.

3. Stanford: Buddy Teevens' job was difficult enough before he lost his top receiver in Teyo Johnson and best offensive lineman in Kwame Harris. And that's off a 2-9 team proving that not winning championships can also come with a price.

4. Tennessee: It was no surprise Kelley Washington went pro, but Jason Witten, the talented tight end, leaving makes you wonder who Casey Clausen will throw to next season.

5. Oregon: It was a tough year for the Ducks and will only get tougher next year without running back Onterrio Smith and Wrightster, a tight end.

Of course, the coaches of the teams who lose players are the ones who suffer the most. And across America, basketball and baseball coaches who have suffered through much more in terms of defections to pro ball, are probably chuckling.

This is the world we live in, where high school basketball stars have $50,000 Hummers and high school teachers drive beat-up Escorts.

And hard-working sports writers drive Altimas with no hubcaps. But that's another column.

You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can see Pat on "Sports Showdown" with Larry Vettel on WGFL-CBS 4 Fridays at 11 p.m. and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m.

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