The BCS Championship game is tomorrow, and while folks in Blacksburg, VA are excited to watch the game, it is far from the most pressing issue in college football in their eyes. In the town in southwest Virginia, football fans are wondering if three of Virginia Tech’s key play-makers are leaving early for the NFL. Those three players are quarterback Logan Thomas, defensive end James Gayle and cornerback Antone Exum.
Early departures really hurt Virginia Tech this season. The Hokies ended the season with a 7-6 record which is far from the norm for the program. One of the biggest reasons for this was the fact that the talent pool shrank because of players leaving early. In the past few years star running backs Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson have left early. Cornerback Jayron Hosley also left early for the draft.
So losing the starting quarterback, top defensive end, and the boundary corner would really hurt the Hokies in 2013. Luckily for fans, I doubt that they will leave. Thomas could really use another year in college. He may have the perfect body to play quarterback in the NFL, but his inconsistency as a passer isn’t. Thomas has the talent to be a first round pick in the draft, but until he shows the ability to complete passes on a consistent basis his draft stock will only be determined by potential.
I think that Exum will stay because he has only played as a corner for one year. He has switched positions every year he has been in college. Exum will eventually be on an NFL roster as a corner or a safety (he has experience as both), but he just needs some more time to adjust to his position. His growth as a corner was evident throughout the 2012 season. Early on, he was getting beat in man-to-man coverage and was committing pass interference penalties left and right. However, he improved right up until the moment he was named the MVP of the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Gayle is the only player of the three that I don’t think would gain a lot from staying for his senior season. He is a speed pass rusher, with a couple of good moves to beat opposing offensive lineman. He is probably a mid to late round pick right now, and I doubt another year will change that. He was on the All-ACC second team both of the past two seasons. He isn’t an unstoppable force, and while I think he has a chance to play in the NFL it is never bad to have a degree to fall back on.
These three players have until January 15th to announce their intentions, so we will find out what each will do here shortly. For now, I think that all three should stay for their senior seasons, but only time will tell.