It was a good day for the Oregon schools, as Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion and Oregon's All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu announced Monday that they would return for their senior seasons and not enter the NFL draft.
Both decisions might rate as a slight surprise. Most NFL draft projections slotted Ekpre-Olomu in the first round this spring, and Mannion received a third-round grade from the NFL. He, in fact, might have gone higher due to two higher rated Pac-12 QBs also opting to return -- Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley -- thereby diminishing a mediocre quarterback class for the draft.
Mannion ranked second in the nation this past season with 358.6 yards passing per game. He threw 37 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
Ekpre-Olomu, a two-time All-Pac-12 pick and a first-team All-American for ESPN.com, ranked second for the Ducks with 84 tackles and he added three interceptions.
In perhaps a surprising twist, Ekpre-Olomu, who has started 27 consecutive games, decided to stay while fellow cornerback Terrance Mitchell opted to enter the NFL draft a year early, joining Ducks running back/receiver De'Anthony Thomas in doing so. Ekpre-Olomu is the only member of the Ducks touted secondary returning in 2014.
“The two main factors related to my decision to return were my continued progression as a person and a player, and I felt Oregon was my best option to achieve those goals and improve my situation for next year,” Ekpre-Olomu told the school's official website.
“I should be able to finish my degree by next fall, possibly by the end of the summer. Football is only one phase of who I am; my degree will be forever. Secondly was my ability to make an impact and become a top [draft] pick, and I felt staying one more year would only help me.”
For Mannion, he will be without receiver Brandin Cooks, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver. Cooks and defensive end Scott Crichton are two Beavers who entered the draft a year early.
For Mannion, he wants to help his team and himself. He feels he could use 2014 to move up significantly among NFL evaluators.
"That was something I asked about -- how much good I could do if I have another good year?" he said.
Mannion had a late-season slide in which he threw 12 of his 15 interceptions in the final five games. In 2012, he also tended to throw interceptions in bunches -- he threw 11 of his 13 interceptions in three games.
At present, the Pac-12 has lost 17 players to early draft entry. It still awaits word from Stanford OG David Yankey, Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey and Arizona State LB Carl Bradford, with Yankey and Carey considered highly likely to leave.
The deadline to declare in Jan. 15.