It has become about as routine in the wintertime for Georgia as going to a bowl game and coaches hitting the road to recruit.
Underclassmen with NFL aspirations decide to turn pro.
The Bulldogs, like other big-time programs, take their roster hits and move on.
This time around, the Bulldogs might go unscathed.
A year ago on Senior Day, junior linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree were expected to play their last home games. Both became first-round picks, but nose guard Kwame Geathers also left and went undrafted.
Unless another player off the radar goes, Georgia could avoid losing an underclassman to the draft for just the second time under Mark Richt. That was in 2008.
“It’s been a little bit of a tradition, if you look here, that guys leave early,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.
Grantham said he’s talked some to players to get a read this year and doesn’t expect any from his unit to make the jump.
“I think we’re fine,” Grantham said. “I think the guys right now are in a pretty good place and they see the benefits of coming back. It’s not etched in stone right now, but at the same time I feel comfortable where we are with them.”
Since 2009, Georgia has lost 11 underclassmen to the draft. Eight were taken in the first three rounds. Besides Jones and Ogletree, A.J. Green, Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno went in the first round and Justin Houston, Rennie Curran and Asher Allen in the third round.
“Right now, I don’t think nobody’s looking at that,” junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said, “but at the end of the year, you don’t know how people think.”
Georgia didn’t lose a single underclassmen to the draft off the defense two years ago when fourth-round tight end Orson Charles was the lone defection.
Junior cornerback Damian Swann said he looks at the young talent and thinks “about it all the time,” the idea of how good the team can be if everybody expected to return does.
Even so, Swann and some other juniors interviewed aren’t quite closing the door publicly on the NFL yet.
Swann acknowledges that he played better as a sophomore than his junior season and that would factor in to his thinking.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It could, but that’s not really a concern to me right this second, so I don’t really know.”
No Georgia junior underclassman is ranked on CBSSports.com’s 2014 NFL draft prospects list that includes juniors and draft-eligible sophomores, although former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell is pegged as a fifth-round prospect out of Alabama State.
Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell probably would be Georgia’s top junior prospect, but he was lost for the season in the opener to Clemson with a torn ACL.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo spent time with him on Sunday.
“He looks good, he feels like he could play right now,” Bobo said. “I wish he could. They say he’s doing great in rehab. … He’s excited for next year.”
NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper floated junior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson’s name during a teleconference last week when talking about Georgia prospects.
“I think he has a chance to be a real good player — he is right now and certainly moving forward for next year,” Kiper said.
Wilson leads the SEC with 110 tackles, but has started just one season.
“I have no NFL on my mind right now,” Wilson said. “I’m just focusing on school and Kentucky right now.”
It’s become routine for underclassmen with NFL aspirations to submit paperwork to an advisory committee to get an evaluation of their stock.
“I don’t know,” Wilson said. “I’m new to this.”
Asked if he knows any teammates considering leaving, Wilson said: “Nah, nah, nah.”
Count offensive lineman Kolton Houston, a sometime starter this season who sat out three seasons before being ruled eligible to play by the NCAA this season, in for 2014.
“Yeah, I’m staying,” Houston said.
Junior receiver Chris Conley, who leads Georgia with 32 catches, said he was definitely coming back, but left a little bit of wiggle room.
“As of right now, it’s not even on my radar,” he said.
Of other underclassmen, he said: “It’s definitely something they’re going to have to speak to their families about and pray about and make the best decision for them and be wise at that. I wouldn’t be mad at anybody for making those decisions, but we’d love to have them here.”