LeSean McCoy might be running to the NFL.
Pitt tailback LeSean McCoy has shown amazing cut-back ability during football games, but the Panthers' faithful were hopeful that the 5-foot-11, 210-pound sophomore wouldn't reverse his field as far as staying in college was concerned.
Instead, despite claiming for some two months that he would return to Pittsburgh for his junior season, several sources have noted that LeSean McCoy has changed his mind and could declare for the NFL Draft.
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt is on a recruiting trip, so McCoy has not yet notified anyone on the staff about his intentions. The two could meet as early as Friday about it. McCoy missed a team meeting Thursday, and that fueled speculation that he would not return to Pitt. He was spotted at a high school basketball game earlier this week in Harrisburg when he should have been back in school.
Wannstedt said Monday that he spoke with McCoy and his parents, and the player was leaning toward returning to Pitt for his junior season. NFL contacts have told Wannstedt that McCoy likely would be a late first- or early second-round pick. Still, it appears that the player's family, as well as several former Pitt players like Larry Fitzgerald are pushing McCoy to the NFL.
McCoy is eligible to enter the April 25-26 annual NFL Draft, because it's been three years since his Bishop McDevitt High School class graduated. He left school early and enrolled at Milford Academy prep school in New Berlin, N.Y. He spent three semesters there before enrolling at Pitt. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL Draft.
McCoy, known as Shady, danced around questions about turning pro throughout the season, but prior to the West Virginia game he said he definitely was returning for another year because he still had a lot to accomplish. He stood by those comments after the season as well, and Wannstedt noted Monday that McCoy would return. Something changed since then, however.
McCoy has had two successful college seasons, earning first-team All-Big East honors and surpassing 1,000 yards in each one. He ran for 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns on 308 carries this past season, which put him 10th in the NCAA in rushing and tied for second in scoring.
McCoy became the first Panthers' running back to surpass 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since Swervin' Curvin Richards in 1988-89. McCoy's 2,816 rushing yards during his first two seasons topped the 2,690 yards gained by former Pitt Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett in 1973-74.
Nearly 30 underclassmen have already declared for the NFL Draft with five running backs all possible first-rounders. They are Iowa's Shonn Green, Connecticut's Donald Brown, Ohio State's Chris Wells, Wisconsin's P.J. Hill and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. There also is a possibility that BCS title-game quarterbacks Sam Bradford from Oklahoma and Florida's Tim Tebow, the past two Heisman Trophy winners, could declare. That likely would push McCoy into the second round.
Without McCoy, the Pitt tailback competition in the spring would be between redshirt freshman Chris Burns, redshirt sophomore Shariff Harris, redshirt junior Kevin Collier and freshman recruit Dion Lewis from Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. The Panthers also have recruited several backs, including Jason Douglas from Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Fla.; Raymond Graham from Elizabeth, N.J. HS; Kevin Adams from St. Joseph Regional HS in Montvale, N.J. and Lewis, who already is enrolled at Pitt for this semester.
If he enters the draft this year, McCoy will become the third Pitt player to leave for the NFL before his senior season since 2004. Fitzgerald was the No. 2 overall pick that year. Cornerback Darrelle Revis was the No. 14 pick in 2007.