Clemson — Despite publicly forecasting his return for months, Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel wavered until he heard the answer in his grandmother's voice.
McDaniel said Tuesday he plans to come back his senior season and not forgo his final year of eligibility to turn pro, barring unexpected feedback from the NFL.
McDaniel has yet to receive his official draft projection from the NFL's underclassmen advisory committee. The feedback he has received so far points to a second-round grade, but if he is pegged a first-rounder, "there's going to be some changes."
"If it is a first-round grade, you can't really pass that up," McDaniel said after a team meeting. "But pretty sure it's not (going to be."
The deadline for underclassmen to declare is Jan. 15. There is a three-day window in which those who declared can change their mind and withdraw, as Clemson running back James Davis did two years ago.
Clemson also announced junior defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins will return for his senior season. Jenkins had denied any serious thought of bolting for the NFL.
McDaniel is rated the No. 51 overall prospect by ESPN's Scouts Inc., which projected him as a second-rounder.
With Tennessee junior Eric Berry expected to be a top pick and Texas junior Earl Thomas projected to be chosen high as well, McDaniel would have been competing with Southern California's Taylor Mays, Georgia junior Reshad Jones and perhaps LSU junior Chad Jones to be the third safety taken.
While a second-round signing bonus (ranging from about $2.5 million to $930,000 last year) is nothing to sneeze at, McDaniel figures returning is a worthwhile investment and a chance to attain some personal goals.
He wants to make another run at the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. McDaniel said the Tigers have the personnel to compete for the ACC championship next season. He hopes to improve on his eight interceptions as a junior and take over the school's single-season interception mark. Plus he is on track to graduate in either August or December, depending on how he shapes his schedule.
"I want to lead the right path for my brother and sister," he said. "Money ain't really a problem. If I want to go for big money, you've got to be first-round money to take away what I want to accomplish here."
McDaniel said he was not influenced by the cases of several recent Clemson standouts - C.J. Spiller and Davis, as well as Gaines Adams - returning for their senior seasons.
"Everybody doesn't have the same situation," he said. "I looked at it from what my family was thinking and what I was thinking."
McDaniel spent the latter part of his week at home near Tallahassee, Fla., with his grandmother, Dorothy Richardson; McDaniel splits time between her place and the home of his godmother.
The first time Richardson told McDaniel he should return to Clemson for his senior season instead of going to the NFL, McDaniel figured she had been persuaded by a talk with coach Dabo Swinney.
But when Richardson came back later and reinforced her desire for him to stay in school, McDaniel took it to heart.
"When she said it, it seemed like she really meant it," McDaniel said. "And the way she said it made it feel like she was right about it.
"I've been back and forth with it the whole time. Sometime I think about leaving and sometime I think about staying. But just sitting down with my family, most of them want me to come back. Listening to outsiders, they say I should leave while I'm hot. But I feel like the right decision is to come back and play with this team again."