Decision day looms for OU's Kenny Stills and Tony Jefferson
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Friday, December 21, 2012
12/21/12 at 8:43 AM
NORMAN - Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills came to Oklahoma together three years ago. Now that they are both NFL draft-eligible juniors, the question worth asking is: Will they leave together?
Will they bypass their senior seasons at OU in order to launch pro careers?
"If I sat down and thought about it, I could give you a good decision," said Stills, whose 75 catches for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns all led the Sooners this year. "But I'm not trying to think about it or worry about it."
"We've got until Jan. 15 to decide," said Jefferson, whose team-leading 113 tackles helped make him an All-American free safety this season. "That's after the bowl game. I'll worry about that afterwards."
It is somewhat early in the process. Stills and Jefferson have requested an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory committee - something many draft-eligible underclassman typically take advantage of. The committee will review paperwork and game film, then issue a draft grade.
Should Jefferson receive a first-round grade?
"That would be hard to pass up," he acknowledged. "Second round, I don't know. ...
"Especially with the (NFL rookie salary) cap, you don't want to make a decision without thinking about money. There's a big money drop from the first to the second and the third. I've done my investigation on that part."
OU safety will decide in the next month about going to the NFL.
What bearing will Stills' grade have on his decision?
"Zero," he answered. "What they have to say is cool, but I can evaluate myself. Plus my dad's been there. I've got a lot of people that know a lot of things. I'm not worried about it at all."
Stills' dad was a six-year NFL defensive back in the late 1980s. He'll have a heavy influence on the decision.
"If my pops thinks it's the right thing for me to do, that's what I'm gonna do," Stills said of leaving early.
There is another resource close by. OU wide receivers coach Jay Norvell was a six-year NFL assistant with the Colts and Raiders.
"We know a lot of people in the league that can get us information and tell him where he stands," Norvell said. "It's something he'll weigh and we'll help him as much as we can. ...
"There's still more information we need to find out from the NFL. I've got a great relationship with Kenny. I'll tell him if I don't think it's right."
Mike Stoops, OU's defensive coordinator and Jefferson's position coach, said Jefferson has not consulted him on the stay-or-go decision. Which is fine, given that Stoops calls it a "personal decision."
"Players have to decide what's best for them, for whatever reason," Stoops said. "I always think you gain growth and your stock goes up if you stay in school. But that's my feeling. That's the way it's always been.
"But you can't protect yourself against injury. That's the only unknown that you don't like to factor in when you tell a player he can become a better player by staying in school."
There are other factors worth considering. The pool of draftable players at their position, for one. It's just an example, but ESPN analyst Todd McShay has two wide receivers and one safety in his most recent mock first round.
Those numbers might bode well for Stills and Jefferson right now, especially as they try to work their way up mock draft boards that don't list them in round one.
But what if underclassmen at their positions flood the market between now and Jan. 15, the last day for eligible collegians to declare?
Assuming academics become a factor, remember that both Stills and Jefferson enrolled at OU a semester early. Both say they are a semester from their degrees.
"I did do research," Jefferson said, "and if I decide to leave, I can take some online classes (toward) my capstone."
What about the social side of school? The two free-spirited Californians seem to embrace campus life more than typical football players.
"I enjoy college life," Stills said. "I enjoy being around these people, my friends that are here and my teammates."
"Oh yeah, I love college," Jefferson said. "If you step out, you turn into a grown man. It's a business. There's no one there to tap you on your hand and tell you, 'No, no, no.' You get up in the big leagues, you get fired. That's something you think about."
There's a lot for both players to think about. Expect both to do some deliberating between now and OU's Jan. 4 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M, and then a lot more in the days immediately following what could be their final college game.
OU (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (10-2)
7 p.m. Jan. 4
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Decision day looms for pair of Sooners
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU junior Kenny Stills has not made a decision on if he will turn pro after the season ends. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World