Oklahoma's Jefferson, Stills officially declare for NFL draft
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
1/08/13 at 6:16 AM
NORMAN - The anticipated departure of Tony Jefferson and Kenny Stills became official Monday, when the two Oklahoma juniors declared for the NFL draft.
"I cannot begin to express how difficult it is to describe the emotions I have on this day," Stills tweeted. "Becoming a player in the National Football League has been a lifelong dream and goal of mine that I feel I am now ready to make a reality."
"As this was one of the hardest decisions in my life," Jefferson tweeted, "I do have great faith in my future on and off the field because of all the love and support and guidance I have received at Oklahoma."
"We appreciate the contributions that Tony and Kenny have made during their time at Oklahoma," coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. "We wish them both the best."
While the news was no surprise, it nonetheless left both the players and their former program in a state of uncertainty.
The two players had productive three-year college careers. Jefferson went from Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year to All-America safety as a junior, while Stills caught 204 passes as a two-time all-conference wide receiver.
Neither, however, is expected to be a first-round draft pick April 25. Jefferson could be a second- or third-rounder on day two - ESPN analyst Mel Kiper rated him the nation's second-best junior safety behind Florida's Matt Elam recently - while Stills is likely to fall to day three.
That seems to make their decisions completely personal, and at odds with Stoops' philosophy when it comes to borderline underclassmen.
"If you have the ability to be a first-rounder and you are picked in the second, you've lost four million dollars. That's a significant amount of money you can never get back. You could've had it and finished your degree," Stoops said just last month. "Who are the guys after three years that are easy to let go? The third and the fourth, fifth, sixth rounders. They don't have as much invested, and now they have to pay you twice as much on your second contract. Why don't they just get another kid out of college and pay him the same thing?
"It's why the average career in the NFL is three or three and a half years. My whole point is you better maximize your window and get all you can out of it. If you don't, you're playing cheap, you're playing at a discount. To me, you ought not do that."
Of course, Stoops also said: "The ones that have their mind made up to go are going to go no matter what."
Jefferson and Stills are gone. They'll train for three months, then work to succeed against Stoops' grain.
Meanwhile, Stoops will work to replace the three-year starters.
OU is better stocked to replace Stills. Slot receivers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard will return, along with sophomore outside receivers Trey Metoyer and Durron Neal.
Lacoltan Bester returns outside as well. Scout team star Derrick Woods comes off his redshirt. Jaz Reynolds, despite being suspended from 2012 games, remains in the fold, apparently.
"Jaz has to keep pushing and plugging and sawing wood," wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said leading up to OU's Cotton Bowl appearance. "He'll get his chance to get back out there."
Jefferson, who made 119 tackles last season and 258 over his career, leaves a bigger hole than Stills. His backup at free safety last year was senior walk-on Jesse Paulsen.
Who plays there next year is anybody's guess.
Current nickel back Julian Wilson is a possibility. Dime back Gabe Lynn is a longer shot. Sophomore reserve Eric Striker is listed as a linebacker, but he has Jefferson's body and a lot of potential. Defensive back Cortez Johnson sat out last year after transferring from Arizona, where he played his freshman season under OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
It is a position that suddenly lacks experience, but sustains a level of importance. OU's current defensive scheme funnels plays and tackles to its safeties.
Original Print Headline: Sooners' Jefferson, Stills officially declare for draft
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Tony Jefferson (left) and Kenny Stills: The two made their declarations for the NFL draft official on Monday. The departures leave OU in a state of uncertainty.