The gap between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the bowl season typically means two things: arrests and draft declarations. Players will continue to announce their intentions in the coming weeks, so this will probably be a semi-regular Morning Tailgate feature, but I felt now would be a good time to begin looking into some of the decisions that have been made thus far and give them a "Good/Bad Call" stamp.
We'll start with my comfort zone: the offensive backfield. And it appears that, early on in the stay-or-go process, people are making mostly good decisions.
(To keep tabs on who is staying and going, continue visiting this SB Nation section.)
Good Call: Robert Griffin III (Likely) Going
The early word is that Griffin's parents are interviewing agents. This coincides with what I've been hearing for a while: if Griffin wins the Heisman, he goes; if he doesn't, he stays. Well ... he won. And while there is nothing I would love more than another year of Hot Tub Griffin in Waco (I guarantee that this series will give few "bad call" declarations to players staying in school), the bottom line is, he's ready to leave.
A while back, Football Outsiders created the Lewin Career Forecast in an attempt to use college stats to project pro success. Here are some of the factors it uses for projections: career starts, career completion rate, size, run-pass ratio, and rushing yards. In a lot of ways, Griffin is already the perfect quarterback for this tool. He is a three-year starter (the Alamo Bowl will be his 40th career start). His career completion percentage is 67 percent and has improved every year (2011: 72.4 percent). He could be a little taller (6-foot-2), but at 220 pounds he's got a decent amount of meat on his bones (but not too much). His run-pass ratio (30 percent) is probably a bit too high for F.O.'s liking, but only a bit. And when he does run, he tends to get somewhere. He has long been pigeon-holed into the "run-first quarterback" mold even though that has not been particularly true since his freshman year. In 2011, he proved himself to be one of the most well-rounded, pro-ready quarterbacks on the list. If he returns to school, that would be fantastic. But I cannot blame him if he takes the leap.
Good Call: Aaron Murray Staying
According to opponent-adjusted numbers, Murray is a rather underrated quarterback. Georgia ranked fourth in Passing S&P+ in 2011 despite a revolving door of go-to targets. Murray could one day turn into a strong draft prospect (even though he is a bit small at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds), but he is not quite there yet, not with a career completion percentage of 59.9 and only 25 starts. Murray's next task will be learning how to become more consistent. A more steady, experienced receiving corps will help (he has some interesting freshmen who will potentially become more stable sophomores in 2012), but the distance between a good Murray performance (he completed a combined 33 of 47 passes for 476 yards, eight touchdowns and one pick against Auburn and Georgia Tech) and a poor one (combined: 31-for-74, 332 yards, three touchdowns and three picks versus Florida and LSU) is probably a bit too vast.
Good Call: LaMichael James Leaving
Obviously at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, James does not have the prototype of a steady, long-term NFL running back. But he has nothing more to prove at the college level, and he should probably jump before he takes another 200+ hits. James has been steady and spectacular in Eugene, and both his raw stats (746 carries, 4,923 yards, 52 touchdowns) and advanced stats back that up. At Outsiders, I've done work to determine what gives a college running back the best odds of pro success using three factors: Adj. POE, Highlight Yards and Speed Score. We won't know his official speed until the NFL Combine (and with his size, he will need to be incredibly fast to get a passing grade -- Speed Score uses a combination of size and speed), but he passes the two other measures with flying colors.
In general, you need around a plus-12.7 Adj. POE or better, and a 2.64-per-carry Highlight Yardage average to succeed at the pro level (along with a good Speed Score).
2009: plus-20.1 Adj. POE, 3.40 Highlight Yards per Carry
2010: plus-26.4 Adj. POE, 2.82 Highlight Yards per Carry
2011: plus-34.5 Adj. POE, 3.82 Highlight Yards per Carry
Yeah, he's good. And he's ready.
Good Call: Lamar Miller Leaving
Miller's case is a bit shakier than James', but then again, just about everybody's is. He produced 1,272 rushing yards and nine touchdowns this year and has averaged at least 5.6 yards per carry in each of the last two years. His advanced stats are ... fine.
2010: plus-5.7 Adj. POE, 2.38 Highlight Yards per Carry
2011: plus-14.6 Adj. POE, 2.55 Highlight Yards per Carry
He meets the bare minimum requirements for production, and his Highlight Yardage is not so low that it is a red flag. He would need a good Speed Score to get a blessing, but at 5-foot-11, 214 pounds, he won't have to run incredibly fast to get a good score. It seems everybody is leaving Miami right now, and not everybody is making a good decision (spoiler alert: I am probably not going to give Tommy Streeter my blessing), but scouts like Miller quite a bit, and his stats suggest he will have at least decent odds of success.