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Sergio Kindle And His Big Decision

In the ongoing saga of will-he-stay-or-will-he-go, surely to continue over the following days and possibly stretching until the mid-January deadline for underclassmen to declare, an NFL source has indicated that Kindle projects as a low-second round draft pick ($), too low for Kindle, who has said he would leave only with a first round guarantee. The evaluations were supposed to have already arrived or arrive in the very near future, so it's unclear whether the speculation about a low-second round grade is still in the realm of informed speculation, or whether Kindle has the evaluation in hand.

Such evaluations can't factor in possible performances at the combine, where Kindle would no doubt wow scouts with his combination of size and speed--he still runs a 4.55 despite having grown to 6-5 and 240 pounds. An incredible workout may not be enough for Kindle, as teams have only a year of film on him as a situational rusher and only seven teams with first round picks this year run the 3-4. Another mitigating factor is that Kindle struggled to reach the quarterback ($) when matched against Baylor's Jason Smith, a highly regarded left tackle. NFL scouts will surely view that match up with unfavorable interest in terms of Kindle.

In what was surely an important meeting, Will Muschamp traveled to Dallas after Christmas to meet with Kindle and his father to discuss Sergio's future in the program. Unsuprisingly, Muschamp gave Kindle and his father the assessment that Kindle needs to leave if given a first-round assessment. For Kindle to return, however, the family wanted assurances that Kindle would no longer be a situational player, as he was used for most of the season and the Fiesta Bowl, a situation Kindle dealt with well, but still found frustrating as a player believing he could impact the game given the chance.

Muschamp did make that assurance, telling Kindle's father the by next season he wanted NFL teams to view Kindle as an outside linebacker with exceptional pass-rushing ability. From all reports, Muschamp, Kindle, and Kindle's family left the meeting on the same page, which bodes well for Texas retaining Kindle's services for another year.

Another factor is the friendship that Kindle has with three of his senior teammates, now having played their last game in burnt orange. Kindle lives with Ryan Palmer and is close friends with Roy Miller and Brian Orakpo, the latter two about to make some serious money in the NFL.

Perhaps the hardest element of the process to tune out is the pressure on the family coming from outside sources. Agents hovering like scavengers over carrion, trying to convince Kindle's father that Sergio could be a millionaire in a matter of months. Even showing mock drafts for 2010 that list Kindle in the top five. Fortunately for the Loghorns and Sergio's family, his father is doing reasonably well financially right now, minimizing any pressure from the family for Kindle to make his money now.

This draft class is loaded with talented linebackers and several 3-4 rush linebackers: Brian Orakpo and Florida State's Everette Brown in the latter category and Brandon Spikes, Rey Maualuga, James Lauranaitis, Aaron Curry, and Brian Cushing in the former. With such stiff competition at the position, against players with more film than Kindle, it's unlikely a team with a first-round pick would take a chance on the relative unknown. Those high picks are simply too valuable and mistakes can set teams back for years, not to mention cost them significant amounts of money.

Weighing in on the side of the Longhorns is the development of Kindle's relationship with Muschamp ($). After two mostly unsuccessful years in the program played at a level well beneath the lofty standards established before Kindle even set foot on campus, it was Will Muschamp who finally found a way to reach and teach the exceptionally talented Kindle. Part of the solution was to unleash Kindle against opposing quarterbacks, leading to Kindle's infamous comment that the quarterback would be his prey. And prey he has on them, posting impressive numbers on the year (pre-Fiesta Bowl): nine sacks (second on the team behind Orakpo), 13 tackles for loss, 50 tackles, 15 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.

It wasn't just important for Muschamp to establish a relationship with Kindle, it was also important to be able to maintain it. Kindle reportedly told people close to him during the middle of the season that he was leaning towards leaving for the NFL. That all changed after Muschamp was named coach-in-waiting, guaranteeing that he would be with the program to coach Kindle were he to return for his senior season.

Finally, there seems to be a sense from Kindle that he is ready to step into a significant leadership role filled this season by his senior friends and that Kindle is ready as well to secure his legacy as one of the great Longhorn linebackers. Were Kindle to build upon his success from this season, there's no doubt that the team would find itself in the national title hunt and Kindle would be in the running for national defensive awards, as Orakpo was this season. There's still a chance Kindle will bolt for the NFL, but right now it's more than even money he will once again step on the field as a Texas Longhorn.