USC linebacker Su’a Cravens declared for the 2016 NFL Draft on Wednesday, deciding to forgo his senior year for a chance to play in the NFL next season.
One of the Trojans’ best all-around players, Cravens will be sorely missed on defense in what has to be a bittersweet moment for USC.
“After considering all the options and looking into the future, I feel it is in my best interest to forego my senior year and declare for the 2016 NFL draft,” Cravens said on Twitter. “Playing in the NFL has been a lifelong dream and I feel the opportunity at hand is too good to pass up.”
Cravens went on to acknowledge those who guided him through his three years at USC as well as the fan support.
“I want to thank all the professors, advisors, trainers, and coaches for everything they have done for me,” he said. “Most of all I would like to thank the fans so much for all their support. You guys truly made my college experience one to remember.”
Cravens, a highly touted recruit out of high school, did not disappoint at USC, starting as a safety his freshman year and winning All-American honors. Cravens has been selected to the All-Pac-12 Conference first team as a linebacker the last two seasons.
In 26 career starts, Cravens recorded 120 tackles and seven interceptions. His 78 total tackles and 5.5 sacks this season are tied for the team lead.
Cravens noted in the days leading up to his decision that he would not declare for the draft if he wasn’t selected in the first round. He is projected to be a mid-to-late first round pick in next year’s draft.
Head coach Clay Helton is now faced with the unenviable task of replacing Cravens, who was one of the most consistent and dominant players last season despite the turmoil that surrounded the team, providing leadership and stability to the defense. Options to step in for Cravens include freshmen Cameron Smith and Osa Masina and redshirt junior Scott Felix.
The Trojans received better news on the offensive line this week, with All-Pac 12 Conference offensive tackle Zach Banner announcing he will return for his senior season.
USC plays its final contest of the year on Dec. 30 against Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl.