Georgia Tech offensive lineman Nick Claytor will skip his senior season because he has opted to enter the NFL draft.
Underclassmen must declare to the NFL by Jan. 15.
Claytor, a 6-foot, 6-inch, 285-pound tackle, started 15 games in his career. The Yellow Jackets led FBS (formerly Division I-A) in rushing in the 2010 season, averaging 323.3 yards per game. He didn’t return an e-mail.
Coach Paul Johnson said last week that he didn’t think any players were leaving school early. He said that a few juniors had asked to be evaluated by the NFL’s draft advisory panel, but didn’t think any of them would be leaving yet to play professionally. Claytor said that he was planning to return to school for his final season during preparations for the Independence Bowl. He is 10 hours shy of completing his management degree.
Claytor’s decision means Tech will enter the 2011 season without three regulars on the offensive line: Claytor, starting center Sean Bedford and tackle and part-time starter Austin Barrick, both of whom have used up their eligibility. Phil Smith will be the only player returning with considerable experience at tackle.
Claytor’s decision is curious. He wasn’t included in ESPN personality Mel Kiper’s list of top-five underclassmen at the tackle position that he posted on Nov. 17. He has yet to be added to the ESPN player database pool for the draft as of Wednesday afternoon. However, he is one of two underclassmen at the tackle position who have declared as of Wednesday morning. The other is Tyron Smith of USC. Those exclusions don’t mean that Claytor won’t play in the NFL. Former Tech guard Cord Howard went undrafted after his senior season last year, but signed with Buffalo as a free agent and started four games.
A native of Gainesville, Claytor was one of the nation’s top-rated recruits in high school. He enrolled and redshirted his freshman season at Tech in 2007 under former coach Chan Gailey.
Tech has had five players, including Claytor, become early entrants in the draft in the past two years: Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Morgan Burnett and Jonathan Dwyer are the others. Morgan and Thomas were selected in the first round, Burnett the third and Dwyer the sixth.
– Doug Roberson, AJC