ATLANTA — The confetti was scooped up and dumped into helmets as keepsakes. Some players will keep it in their dorms and apartments but some, maybe, were taking it as one of the last memories they’ll have in a Florida Gator uniform.
Gators like CeCe Jefferson and Martez Ivey have exhausted their eligibility and will not get ready for the NFL draft. Others have eligibility left but could decide to leave school early and forego that final season.
This season meant a lot to Jordan Scarlett. The redshirt junior running back was suspended all of 2017 and had to watch his team falter to a 4-7 record. He felt responsible for a lot of the struggles and wanted to come back and contribute. He did that and more this year with 776 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Scarlett is one semester away from graduating, which means if he were to return for his redshirt senior season he would need to enroll in graduate school.
“I’ll definitely talk to my family and see what they’re thinking,” Scarlett said in the locker room after the game. “Just get my draft status back and just see how that’s looking and make my decision from there. I’ll probably decide by next week.”
The biggest riser in terms of draft stock this season is defensive lineman Jachai Polite. The NFL values two things more than anything else: quarterbacks and guys that get after the quarterback. Polite is the latter. The junior leads the country with six forced fumbles and he tallied 11 sacks to go along with that. Many draft pundits and prognosticators believe he will be a first round pick if he choses to leave school this year.
“I didn’t make my decision yet,” he said. “I gotta go home and sit with my family and think, plan it out and make sure I make the right decision. I have until (January) 14th and I don’t know. Just whenever I talk to my family and finalize it.”
Right tackle Jawaan Taylor is another player that is getting serious love from the NFL. He’s a big, tall, strong tackle that is highly coveted by NFL teams that invest significant money in quarterbacks; gotta protect that investment. Taylor has only played on the right side of the line during his time in Gainesville. He could benefit from coming back to school and getting some film on the left side of the line, where he would be a frontrunner to start at left tackle for the Gators.
“I’m not sure,” Taylor said. “Am I ready to go to the next level? I just need to sit down with my family and talk it over.”
One name that came up later in the season as someone who could leave early is linebacker Vosean Joseph. The junior from Miami submitted paperwork to the draft advisory council and has already reviewed what they said. He was non committal when talking to Gator Country about his decision process and where he was leaning.
I’ve been talking to my parents about it,” he said. “I just have to evaluate myself and come up with the best decision for myself.”
What would make the decision difficult is leaving behind his teammates.
“These are my brothers right here. I love them boys with all my heart,” he said.” That’s the main thing that’s really killing me with this decision, like, I just gotta do what’s best for me.”
All draft eligible players have until January 14th to declare for the NFL Draft.