Over the last few seasons, as the medical and financial welfare of college football players has become a bigger and bigger issue, experts have surmised whether or not it makes sense for certain ELITE players to sit out their collegiate junior seasons and wait for their NFL-mandated three year post-high school window to expire rather than play and risk injury during their junior season.
Former LSU running back Leonard Fournette and current Houston Texan Jadeveon Clowney, both eventual top four picks in their respective drafts, come to mind. The notion of their sitting out was only exacerbated by injuries each suffered during their sophomore seasons. Same goes for Houston's Ed Oliver, who was incredible in 2017 while playing through some nagging injuries.
A consensus All-American his first two seasons in college, Oliver will not be sitting out his junior year. However, he will make no bones about the business side of what he is doing, and to that end, Oliver made the earliest "I'm going pro" announcement that I can ever remember a college football player making, announcing after the Cougars' first spring practice that he will be entering the 2019 NFL Draft, two months in advance of the 2018 NFL DRAFT:
“This was a dream of mine coming in," Oliver said. "I knew I was going on a business trip, and whether my business trip was three years or four years it just depended on how early I got on the field and how effective I was."
Oliver's resume is about as good as it gets for an interior defensive lineman with two seasons of college football under his belt. In 2018, Oliver won the Outland Trophy winner and was named The American’s Defensive Player of the Year. Oliver also leads the nation with a career average of 1.56 tackles for loss per game, totaling 39.5 tackles for loss in just 25 games played.
Football purists, a breed that seems to be losing more and more of its constituency with each passing hypocritical NCAA scandal, probably cringe at a player announcing intentions to go pro BEFORE the upcoming season, but Oliver's announcement and its timing make a lot of sense. It removes the specter of an obvious question hanging over the team during the 2018 season, and it actually provides a valuable tool on the recruiting trail in 2018 for head coach Major Applewhite.
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In fact, you can see Applewhite practicing the pitch in this clip right here:
.@CoachApplewhite on @UHCougarFB having a player like @Edoliver_11 have the success he's had: "It kind of puts a hole in the whole (idea) you got to go to a Power Five or a certain school to get all those things done. It kind of ruins that theory." pic.twitter.com/KB8tkaI7v1— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) March 6, 2018
The season begins in about six months, and it's worth noting, Ed Oliver is the only defensive lineman on the odds board for the Heisman Trophy. We will see how things go, but for now, we know that the Ed Oliver farewell tour begins with the Cougars' spring scrimmage.
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