Four Vol juniors mull NFL Draft

Four University of Tennessee juniors will check out their NFL Draft status before deciding whether or not to return for the 2008 football season.

The four are linebacker Jerod Mayo, tailback Arian Foster, guard Anthony Parker and punter Britton Colquitt.

Mayo, a first-team Coaches All-SEC pick, was the 2007 Vols leading tackler with 127 stops. Foster was the team’s leading rusher with 1,162 yards. Parker was a second-team Associated Press All-American and Colquitt was a second-team All-SEC selection.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer said UT has submitted the paperwork requesting that the four players be judged by the NFL’s advisory committee. The committee will then gather information and project where each player will be drafted. These projections are not always accurate, however. Vol tight end Jason Witten was given a first-round grade following the 2002 college season but wasn’t taken until Round 3 of the 2003 NFL Draft.

Mayo, a 6-2, 230-pounder with the quickness to be an outstanding pro, said requesting a draft grade does not mean he is looking to jump to the pro ranks.

“I’m real neutral right now,” he said. “I love Tennessee. I love being here. I’m just going to get my grade back and talk to my family, see what I’m going to do at the end of the season.”

Fulmer said he generally recommends that an underclassmen stay in school unless he’s likely to be taken within the first 15 to 20 picks of the draft. When asked if he has a specific range in mind, Mayo shook his head.

“Not really,” he said. “There’s not a number, not a grade or anything like that. It’s just what’s best for me and my family.”

Mayo suggested his decision to fill out the NFL Draft paperwork was more a matter of curiosity than anything.

“It’s not like I’m saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to The League right now.’ It’s just something to see where I’m at, then go from there.”

Mayo was plagued by nagging injuries as a freshman in 2004, as a redshirt freshman in 2005 and as a sophomore in 2006. Still, he said the risk of another injury is no factor in his decision to return or go.

“Not at all,” he said. “The injuries I’ve had in the past have been fluke injuries and things like that. I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to come through this season pretty healthy, and I’m ready to play the rest of my career healthy.”

The chances of Mayo returning probably got a boost from the late-season improvement Tennessee made on defense. After getting shredded regularly in Games 1 through 7, the stop unit toughened up a bit in Games 8 through 13. The Vols allowed LSU just one offensive touchdown in the recent SEC Championship Game.

“It’s definitely an incentive to come back – watching these young guys grow up in the secondary and come back and be the No. 1 defense in the conference,” Mayo said.

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