— Mays stays.
Colt doesn’t bolt.
And Tebow? He won’t go.
Three of college football’s most dynamic talents, all of them NFL-eligible juniors, have decided that they are not yet “feelin’ kinda Sunday.” Not yet, at least.
Taylor Mays, a 6-4 free safety, is staying at USC. Quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow, who flanked Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford when the Heisman Trophy was announced in December, will return to Texas and Florida, respectively.
The thinking here is that two of those three will be suiting up in the 2010 BCS Championship Game.
Are these three ready for the NFL? Does Jay Glazer have unlimited minutes?
McCoy, who arguably came up one play shy of winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Longhorns to the national championship game, is a latter-day Roger Staubach. In 2008 the 6-3 junior led Texas in both passing and rushing and was as charismatic a leader as any program could desire, Florida included. The website Collegefootballnews.com recently pronounced the Tuscola, Texas, native as the best player in the Big 12 regardless of position — and that includes Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma.
It's great that Bradford's also coming back, but the Sooners' offensive line won't be as strong as last season, so a return to the BCS title game is doubtful.
Mays, the son of former NFL defensive lineman Stafford Mays, is an anxiety attack waiting to happen for any receiver whose route is designed to go between the hashmarks. He’s Ronnie Lott, only bigger, is the conventional wisdom. Collegefootballnews.com rates him as the fourth-best overall player in the Pac-10, behind teammate Rey Maualuga (linebacker) and Cal’s Jahvid Best (running back) and Zack Follett (linebacker).
Tebow is, well, Tebow. In lieu of calling him one of the best players ever in college football — a claim that sounds ludicrous after he was clearly the second-best quarterback in Dolphin Stadium last week — Tebow is now being tagged as “potentially the most decorated”. As if he is Ian Schrager property. Still, Psycho Tebow already has two national championships and one Heisman Trophy. While Gino Torretta (Miami) and Matt Leinart (USC) can technically make the same boast, another dose of either places Tebow alone on a promontory never before scaled by an individual in the modern era.
Mays would likely be a top 15 pick in April’s NFL draft. McCoy and Tebow, for all the acclaim and magazine covers that they accrue (and rightly so), are at best 2nd- or 3rd-round selections currently. NFL draftnik patriarch Mel Kiper, Jr., considers Tebow better suited to play H-back or tight end in the NFL, and his performance in the BCS Championship bolstered Kiper’s argument.
Still, McCoy and Tebow are undeniably winners. As is Mays, even if he does not take snaps. In fact, the trio’s schools are a combined 8-1 in bowl games over the past three seasons (6-0 in BCS bowls).
Why would these three return? First of all, have you been to Los Angeles, Austin or Gainesville? Have you been there as a 21 year-old celebrity?
Mays’ decision to return for one more season to Pete Carroll’s cavalcade of fun seems the most enigmatic. A three-year starter on a unit that was as dominant as any on either side of the ball this season, Mays is not ignorant as to his pro value. Plus, the Trojan defense will be weakened somewhat by the loss of three fellow first-rounders: Maualuga, linebacker Brian Cushing and defensive tackle Fili Moala.
In a statement released Tuesday, though, the All-American safety said, “There are a lot more things I want to accomplish as a player, a student and a person, things that I've dreamed about for a long time and that are big goals to me. Returning to USC will help me be the best player I can be and put me in the best position possible for the next level."
In the last three decades, only one player at Mays’ position has been selected among the first three picks in the NFL draft. That was Bennie Blades of Miami, whom the Detroit Lions selected No. 3 in the 1988 NFL draft. There’s that to shoot for. Then, too, Mays has yet to win a Thorpe Award (nation’s best defensive back) or a national championship ring. And maybe he’d like, finally, to hear his name mentioned first when everyone heaps praise on USC’s relentless defense.
McCoy will enter the 2009 season as college football’s poster boy for unfinished business. “I’m not going anywhere,” McCoy told the Austin American-Statesman on Monday.
In the state that authored the gridiron phrase, “Git ‘er done!”, McCoy dons the burnt orange one more year to do just that. Like Mays a three-year starter, McCoy stared forlornly from the sideline on Nov. 1, in Lubbock as Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree scored the game-winning touchdown with :01 remaining. Until that moment, McCoy was the front-runner for the Heisman and the Horns in pole position to play in the BCS championship.
Unlike Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who stepped into the void created by that outcome, McCoy is not a potential No. 1 overall pick. By remaining under the tutelage of Mack Brown he is not blithely tossing away an eight-figure signing bonus.
Besides, McCoy is living the dream. The most prolific passer in Longhorn annals, McCoy will return with a favorite target, Jordan Shipley, who also happens to be his best friend (the NCAA just granted Shipley a sixth year of eligibility). His comely girlfriend gets more close-ups than the game’s sideline reporter (more, perhaps, than Mack Brown). The Longhorns schedule would be more difficult if they replaced any of their non-conference opponents with Plano East and Copperas Cove. And, while Brown places the 6th Street nightspots off-limits to his players, there may not be a better college town in the entire universe.
The stage is set perfectly for McCoy to achieve his goals. You get the feeling that he is relieved that scouts don’t consider him a top-five pick. In fact, he has no intention of even asking the NFL for an opinion on his draft status.
While fans will root for McCoy the way Hollywood once did for Martin Scorcese on Oscar night (before “The Departed”), the Tim Tebow backlash campaign is already in full swing. On Sunday in Gainesville before a crowd of tens of thousands, Tebow spoke and then started to walk off the stage. Then he back-tracked, grabbed the microphone and said, “By the way, let’s do it again.”
McCoy is on a mission. Tebow, like the Blues Brothers, is on a mission from God. When he and his parents discussed his NFL prospects with Gator head coach Urban Meyer last weekend, the most salient point was his status as the most recognizable athlete in college athletics.
Before Thursday’s BCS championship contest, Tebow scrawled the Bible verse “John 3:16” on his eye-black. The next day “John 3:16” was the most searched item on Google. Such forums do NFL H-backs not enjoy.
The Gators return 19 starters (depending on whether Tebow’s classmates, receiver-tailback Percy Harvin and middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, both 1st-rounders, declare) and will be the preseason No. 1 of everyone who is not an ardent believer in hunger and determination. That flock will likely pick Texas, and McCoy No. 1.
As for Mays and his Trojans? Their preseason ranking might not be as high as usual with quarterback Mark Sanchez having left early for the NFL. Troy, however, has a veritable stable of former five-star prep QBs — junior Mitch Mustain, sophomore Aaron Corp and freshman Matt Barkley — and none of them want to be the next Matt Cassell. Even if Cassell is about to have the franchise label affixed to him.
Mays’ first three seasons at USC ended with a Rose Bowl victory. It would not be a surprise if Mays makes it 4-for-4 with an extra special game played at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2010: the BCS Championship. And should he be watching film in the month leading up to that game of McCoy or Tebow? That’ll be worth sticking around for.