Ryan Williams, Darren Evans discuss the NFL draft process
The big news out of Blacksburg over the past week, besides the obligatory offseason rumors of Bud Foster's imminent departure for a head coaching job, has been the decision by running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans to get evaluated by an NFL draft advisory board. In the midst of exams, both have been getting together paperwork indicating they would be interested in leaving Virginia Tech early under the right circumstances.
On Sunday after a short morning practice, both Evans and Williams spoke with reporters for the first time since going forward with the draft process, and not surprisingly, they played down whatever implications others may have drawn from their decision.
“It’s not a hard decision because an opportunity is an opportunity," Evans said. "You just do it. You take it for what it is. They tell you where you’re gonna be and you make a decision off of that. It’s not hard. It just depends on what else factors into it."
Added Williams, who has yet to send his paperwork in: "I still got two years left. I’m only a sophomore. I’m kind of in a win-win situation here: come back to school, continue with my college life and doing my college thing or I can hop in the league and continue pursuing my dreams.”
The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the NFL draft isn't until Jan. 18, so it's unlikely Williams or Evans will decide to leave school before the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. They expect to hear back from the advisory board in the next two weeks or so. Neither has plans to sign with an agent anytime soon, a good thing because both have very different factors to weigh.
For Williams, it's all about draft stock. Despite playing through an injury-filled year while splitting carries this past season, Williams is still rated as one of the top five running back prospects in the country by most draft analysts. But even though his production decreased, Williams showed late in the season that he's fully healthy again.
Williams said Sunday he's been trying to put off thinking about the draft even though he plans to file his paperwork, and at times seemed annoyed that his draft prospects have become such a topic of discussion. His phone has been bombarded with random numbers in recent weeks -- he thinks it's agents trying to contact him -- and he's gotten lots of random e-mails.
“My decision is weighing off of what I feel is best for me," Williams said. "If it’s the first round and I still don’t feel like it’s the best thing for me, I’m not going to take it. We just want to see how it goes. ... Coming back, it would be, if anything, more of an educational thing because you see a lot of guys leave without a degree and end up coming back later on. You think about it, you might as well finish it up now while you’re in the groove of things.”
As for Evans, he has a family and a degree to consider. Evans confirmed Sunday that he is just two classes away from graduating, but that one of them has to be taken on campus. His mother, meanwhile, is battling kidney failure back home in Indianapolis and one of her wishes is for Evans to graduate.
Evans also has his wife and four-year-old son James to think about. But Evans made it a point Sunday to say that money is not an issue right now, emphasizing that he and his wife have had no troubles being able to provide for their son.
"It’s not like I need it too much," Evans said. "We’re not struggling, not one bit. We eat good every night. Every time James goes to the store, he gets a toy. If we couldn’t do that, then we wouldn’t, but I don’t need to be a millionaire. I just want to play football. That’s it."
Evans is coming off a resurgent year in which he averaged 5.9 yards per carry and led the Hokies in rushing, putting to rest any lingering doubts about the ACL tear he suffered before the 2009 season. Running backs coach Billy Hite said Evans is even better now than before the injury, when he gained more than 1,200 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2008.
"That’s my dream, to be in the NFL," Evans said. "It’s not like I’m pressed to go. I’m still just very blessed to be out here after my ACL and I’m able to perform. I still count my blessings for that. To rush things with the situation, I just couldn’t do that. That would be me jumping the gun. I don’t want to do that. I just want to take things at a time."
As for their potential replacement, sophomore David Wilson, Hite had glowing praise for the dynamic playmaker.
“I think in the last two or three games, I’m not so sure he hasn’t been the best back," Hite said. "Obviously, David is ready to play. ... With his great speed, he’s a threat all the time."
After nearly redshirting before this season began, Wilson finished with more all-purpose yards than any other Virginia Tech player (1,353) and scored 10 touchdowns despite missing one game because of mono and barely touching the ball when the Hokies began the year 0-2.
Hite did say, though, that whether Evans or Williams or both leave school early, he'd like to keep a running back rotation intact for next season. The names he mentioned alongside Wilson were redshirt freshman Tony Gregory and fullback Josh Oglesby.
| December 13, 2010; 9:36 AM ET
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