- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big East is losing two of its best players in Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones and Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu. Their early departures to the NFL make sense. Not so sure yet on USF running back Darrell Scott, who had one decent year in his college career. Syracuse receiver Dorian Graham has graduated and declared for the draft as well.
So as it stands by early Thursday, those four underclassmen are the only ones from the Big East to officially declared their intentions to enter the NFL draft. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to make their decisions.
All this begs the question — which team will be impacted the most? Is it Syracuse without its most consistent lineman? Rutgers without its best receiver? USF without its leading rusher?
Let's take a closer look.
Jones. Though Jones only played in seven games this season, he still made the Big East first-team with 39 tackles, a team-high 4 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. He had a monster game in his return against West Virginia, but then the team lost five straight games. What really compounds his loss is this -- Syracuse also is losing its other starting defensive end, Mikhail Marinovich, and starting safety Phillip Thomas. Those are three veteran defensive players, with a combined 90 starts between them. Ninety! That to me is absolutely huge. I really do believe Syracuse might be hurt most with Jones gone, because he would have been a veteran leader on what should be a young defense once again. He would have been the best player, too. Combine that with two other key departures and Syracuse could be hurting on D in 2012. Graham had 24 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns, and I don't think his loss will have as much of an impact -- perhaps it will from a depth standpoint.
Sanu. What more can you say about Sanu's production this season? He had 115 catches — 83 more than Quron Pratt, No. 2 on the receptions list. When you think about it, Sanu had enough catches for two receivers, he was essentially the only go-to player, the biggest, strongest, most physical and most consistent. Rutgers is going to be losing a boatload without him. But, the good news for Rutgers is this team returns all of its talented receivers. Pratt, Mark Harrison, Brandon Coleman are all back, along with promising up-and-comer Miles Shuler. So to be sure, Rutgers has an immense amount of talent. But somebody is going to have to step up and fill the enormous cleats Sanu leaves behind.
Scott. Once Skip Holtz said last month that Scott was considering leaving school, you figured the running back would be a goner. But the big question is why. He isn't among the most highly rated underclassmen. In fact, if you do a quick search of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay evaluations, Scott doesn't appear. He did lead the team with 814 yards rushing on 153 carries, but B.J. Daniels had 601 yards rushing and Demetris Murray had 503. Where this really hurts is depth. The team is left with Murray, Marcus Shaw, true freshman Willie Davis and little used Bradley Battles. Scott certainly could have used another year to boost his draft stock, and to help the Bulls in the run game, but Murray is a capable back with plenty of experience. Still, Scott's transfer was supposed to solidify the run game, and now it's in flux again.
What do you think? Make sure to weigh in now with your vote.