Sarkisian: USC’s Draft-Eligible Juniors “Drastically Different” from 2013


After USC’s first bowl practice of the season, head coach Steve Sarkisian discussed the decision Trojan draft-eligibile juniors will be making over the coming weeks, calling the situation “drastically different” from last year’s crop of early entrants.

In 2013, following the emotional departure of interim head coach Ed Orgeron, USC saw most of their potential early entrants leave for the NFL. Of the five, only two, Marqise Lee and Marcus Martin, were drafted.

“Obviously, not all [last year’s early departures] made the best decisions. Some of them are on the street right now not playing any football and they could have been out here with us today running around, having a blast,” Sarkisian said. “I feel bad that it went down that way, but I’m much more confident with this group of guys.”

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Sarkisian says his role is to be a resource for players making their decision. He is grateful that through the first round of meetings with players regarding their draft status, he felt that he has built enough of a relationship with his guys to engage in a positive dialogue, despite his biases towards key players staying in school.

“Competitively as the head coach at ‘SC, I want them to be here because I think we have a chance to do something uniquely special next fall,” Sarkisian said. “All the being said we have to take in all of the information and then allow these guys to make educated decisions, not emotional decisions.”

Indeed, Sarkisian is all too aware about the importance of recruiting players back to school.

Early but undrafted departures like safety Dion Bailey, tight end Xavier Grimble and defensive end George Uko would have been key figures on this year’s depleted Trojan team.

For next year, Sarkisian faces the possibility of even more valuable contributors jumping ship.

Nelson Agholor tops the list of juniors Sarkisian will need to convince to stay. He is also one of the more intriguing NFL prospects.

Unlike Robert Woods and Marqise Lee before him, Agholor does not boast the same obviously NFL-ready talent. Five 100 or more yard games in his final six games of the season might entice him to go, but a dismal 24-yard performance against UCLA will certainly raise questions about his status as a potential pick.

Nov 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tailback Javorius Allen (37) carries the ball in the second quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Leading rusher Javorius Allen, a redshirt junior, could depart as well. Like Agholor, Allen has shown flashes of next-level talent, but consistency remains a concern. However, in a position of heavy wear-and-tear, Allen could hardly be blamed for departing if his draft evaluation warrants it.

Starting center Max Tuerk will also be eligible to leave as will cornerback Kevon Seymour, tackle Antwaun Woods and linebacker Anthony Sarao. Fullbacks Soma Vainuku and Jahleel Pinner, wide receiver George Farmer, tackles Delvon Simmons and Claude Pelon, and quarterback Cody Kessler are eligible but highly unlikely to jump.

Leonard Williams, a projected top-ten prospect, is almost certain to depart.

This year the NFL changed the way it will do draft evaluations, limiting schools to five underclassmen evaluations. They have also tweaked the way draft grades are delivered, assessing a player as either a first or second round potential only. Anyone out of that range will be considered not draft ready and encouraged to stay in school.

Sarkisian said they should not have an issue with whittling down the names to the five who will receive draft evaluations. For speculation’s sake, Williams, Agholor, Allen, Seymour, and Tuerk would likely fill those slots.