Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer and Derrick Morgan announced on Monday that they are leaving the Yellow Jackets after their junior seasons. In a room full of teammates, the three said they wanted to fulfill their dream of playing in the NFL.
Dwyer said he told his mother when he was 5 years old that he would one day play pro ball. Today, his father, Tony, said it still hasn’t sunk in.
Morgan, the ACC’s defensive player of the year, had 12 1/2 sacks this season and is projected to be a top-10 pick in April’s NFL draft. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper rates Morgan, 6-4, 272-pounds, as the top defensive end in the junior class, saying he’s a “proven pass-rusher, stout versus run. Very productive.” Todd McShay of Scouts, Inc. rates Morgan as the fifth-best player overall.
He has already signed with an agency and is leaving for Arizona this afternoon to begin workouts in Arizona.
Dwyer, the ACC’s player of the year two seasons ago, rushed for 1,395 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, after rushing for 1,395 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2008. He is projected to go as high as late in the first-round. Kiper rates Dwyer, who is 6-0, 235 pounds, as the fourth-best junior running back. Scouts rates Dwyer as the 30th-best player. He is leaving Wednesday to begin preparing for the draft at a clinic in Dallas. He hasn’t signed with an agent yet.
Burnett, a 6-1, 210-pound safety, has intercepted 14 passes and made 235 tackles in three seasons. Kiper rates him the second-best junior safety. Burnett isn’t in Scouts’ top 100. He hasn’t signed with an agent and hasn’t decided where he will begin his draft preparation.
Four players have now left Tech for the NFL.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, a redshirt junior, announced last week that he was also leaving school.
Despite the loss of talent, Nick Claytor, Roddy Jones and Brad Jefferson said they are ready to defend their ACC title.
“It’s time to not only a win a bowl game, but a BCS game,” Claytor said.
Jefferson, Burnett and Josh Nesbitt are best friends. As he looked around the room, Burnett said “It’s getting touching now. Seeing more and more of my teammates coming in. I call him my younger, big brother, Brad Jefferson. Seeing him be supportive. It shows the closeness of my class. It shows the closeness of the situation. Made family-like bonds. It’s going to be hard to leave people.”
Said Morgan: “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.”
During Thomas’ press conference on Friday, Tech coach Paul Johnson said: “I’ve sat down with all those guys and they have to make the best decision for them. I would love to see them all come back if that’s what they chose to do. There’s a lot of money out there. Whatever they decide, I’m going to support 100 percent.”
Johnson was at an NCAA convention in Orlando and wasn’t able to attend the press conference.
Burnett, Dwyer and Morgan dominated the snaps at their respective positions the past two seasons.
Anthony Allen, Preston Lyons, Richard Watson and Daniel Drummond would likely compete for the starting B-back spot.
Izaan Cross, Emmanuel Dieke, Robert Hall, Jason Peters and Anthony Egbuniwe are a few who would likely compete for the two starting defensive end spots. Much depends upon who is hired as defensive coordinator and what system they implement.
Cooper Taylor, Mario Edwards, Jemea Thomas and Dominique Reese are a few of the players who could compete at the safety position.