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Thursday, January 5, 2012
Spartans' Jerel Worthy makes the right call

By Brian Bennett

And a DT makes three.

Michigan State junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy announced Thursday that he will skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft this spring. It's a decision that many saw coming, and is the right one for Worthy.

He was a first-team All-American this year and his numbers -- 30 tackles, 10.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks -- don't tell the full story of his performance. Worthy commanded constant double-teams and blew up the inside of offensive lines all season, a key reason why the Spartans finished No. 5 nationally in total defense this season.

He's already got the body of an NFL linemen at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, and he has been projected as a possible first-rounder -- he's No. 20 in Mel Kiper Jr.'s rankings. Worthy told reporters he made up his mind after the blocked kick sealed the Outback Bowl win against Georgia, knowing he could go out a winner. He'll be remembered as an important part of back-to-back, 11-win teams at Michigan State.

His departure will hurt, but the Spartans still retain a very solid nucleus on defense, especially if cornerback Johnny Adams decides to stay. Anthony Rashad White could emerge as the leader at defensive tackle, and defensive end William Gholston's huge Outback Bowl performance signals he could be ready to take over as a major force next season.

I'm hoping to talk with Worthy in a bit and will have more on his decision. He's the third Big Ten underclassman to declare for the draft so far, joining Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus and Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff. Wisconsin's Montee Ball is scheduled to make his announcement at 4 p.m. ET.