TAMPA, Fla. – TAMPA, Fla. — South Carolina lost the game, then lost a couple more juniors from its defense.
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and linebacker Eric Norwood told The State following the Outback Bowl they will forgo their final season to enter the NFL draft.
The NFL’s advisory committee projected Munnerlyn as a first- to third-round draft pick, and told Norwood he likely would go somewhere between the fourth and seventh rounds, the players said Thursday.
“Me and Norwood both talked to our folks and I think the best decision for me and my family is to go ahead and leave,” Munnerlyn said. “It’s time for me to move on.”
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Munnerlyn and Norwood join strong safety Emanuel Cook, who was academically ineligible for the bowl game and plans to turn pro.
Tight end Jared Cook, a junior from Georgia, said he wants to meet with his family before deciding. Cook has not yet received his evaluation from the NFL.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 15.
Munnerlyn initially told a group of reporters after the game he had not finalized his plans. But later he said the decision was based on his 50-year-old mother, Evelyn, who missed work this year because of a blood condition.
“I love playing for the University of South Carolina, but I’ve got make the best decision for me and my mother,” said Munnerlyn, an Alabama native who blamed his decreased production this season on the fact that the Gamecocks played more zone coverage.
Norwood said he was grateful to USC and planned to finish his degree, but thought the time was right to jump to the NFL.
“I feel like I accomplished a lot here and I’m ready to move on and go to the next level,” Norwood said.
Norwood finished his career as USC’s all-time leader with 43 tackles for loss. He is third in school history with 22 sacks, and an All-SEC selection in 2007 and ’08 at defensive end and linebacker, respectively.
Munnerlyn and Norwood planned to inform USC coach Steve Spurrier of their decision Thursday afternoon.
Gamecocks defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said coaches expected Munnerlyn to leave early but felt good about the chances of Norwood remaining in school.
Hear players' postgame comments