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Jamaal Charles Declares For NFL Draft

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There's already a lively discussion in the diaries, but if you haven't seen it yet: Jamaal Charles will forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. As has been noted in the diary thread, this year's draft class is pretty loaded at running back, which begs the question: is this a smart move?

I'll let the MB-TF official release summarize JC's accomplishments to date:

Charles, who shared UT's team MVP honors with Colt McCoy in 2007, capped his junior season by running for 161 yards and two TDs in the Horns 52-34 win over No. 12 Arizona State in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. The unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection rushed for 1,619 yards (No. 5 on the UT single-season list) and 18 TDs (T-No. No. 5 on UT single-season list) on 258 carries (6.2 ypc) in 2007. He also caught 17 passes for 199 yards to record 1,818 yards (No. 5 on the UT single-season list) from scrimmage on the year.

"We appreciate everything Jamaal has done for Texas and want to wish him all of the best," said Mack Brown. "He has been a great player for us and more importantly a tremendous person, student and representative of our program. We thank him, support him and look forward to following his career in the NFL."

A 2007 Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back) semifinalist, Charles finished the year strong, rushing for 897 yards and 10 TDs on 116 carries (7.7 ypc) over the last five games (179.4 ypg). That included a career-high 290-yard (No. 4 on the UT all-time list) and three-TD rushing effort in leading UT to a 28-25 comeback victory over Nebraska. His 216 yards in the fourth quarter of that game were the second-most in a quarter in NCAA history. He also rushed for 180 yards and three TDs and 174 yards and a score in victories over Okahoma State and Texas Tech. His seven 100-yard rushing games on the season are tied for fifth-most on the UT single-season chart.

A three-time All-Big 12 pick and 2005 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, Charles finished his career ranked fourth on the UT all-time rushing list with 3,328 yards, tied for fifth in rushing TDs (36) and ranked fourth in total TDs scored (39). He averaged 20.3 yards per TD run for his career. Charles also caught 49 passes for 539 yards and three TDs to tally 3,867 yards (No. 6 on the UT all-time list) from scrimmage. He had 31 career runs of at least 20 yards.

On-field collegiate accomplishments only help you so much with NFL scouts, however. Professional football scouting is mostly a matter of subjective observation combined with raw numbers testing. How high can you jump? How fast can you run 10, 40, 100 yards? Can you juggle while you zig zag through cones?

Though there are more accomplished tailbacks entering the 2008 NFL Draft with Charles, there won't be many who test out better. Darren McFadden is a lock for one of the top couple picks, but the rest of the group - though accomplished - probably won't test out as well as JC. As well as Charles played in the second half of this season, there's a real possibility that his stock is at its all-time high. When you factor in the risk of injury, leaving now is easily justifiable, if not flat out the right thing to do. As much as we fans live for the burnt orange and white, many of these kids intend to make a career out of the game. Sometimes, you gotta make a business decision, whether you want to return or not.

So that's that. Charles leaves a national champion and one of the most exciting Longhorn tailbacks  ever to play in Austin. The offense takes a big hit as Texas looks for its next great tailback. Is Vondrell McGee ready to take a big step forward? Can Cody Johnson or Fozzy Whittaker play important roles as redshirt freshmen? Does Charles' departure give Texas a better shot at Darrell Scott?

The offseason is upon us. What a start...