Ambry Thomas

College Football Notes: Winter Season, Slater, Lance

Just like everything else in the world, college football has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the NFL, whose talent comes almost exclusively from the collegiate ranks, is willing to do whatever it can to make sure college football is played before the 2021 NFL draft.

As Albert Breer of SI.com writes, college coaches have discussed starting their season not in the spring, but on January 1, which would allow them to play out an eight-game season and even a postseason by mid-March. The NFL is willing to assist with that endeavor, whether that means offering its stadiums — like the Lions’ Ford Field — or pushing back its combine and draft.

Of course, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced plans to postpone their fall schedules to the spring, but a winter season may make it more likely that top college prospects choose to play rather than declare for the draft. Either way, it seems inevitable that the NFL will need to make some serious adjustments to its 2021 offseason schedule, but the league seems prepared to do so.

Now for more collegiate notes that could have a major impact on the professional game:

  • Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater is opting out of the 2020 season, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Slater is viewed as one of the best O-line prospects in the country — he was one of the few players to limit Ohio State star Chase Young┬álast year — and Thamel believes Slater will not fall out of the first round.
  • Slater’s Big Ten colleague, Michigan CB Ambry Thomas, has also declared for the 2021 draft, a decision that Thomas himself announced via Twitter. Thomas just became a full-time contributor on defense in 2019, and he was excellent in press coverage. A likely Day 2 selection, he also has appeal as a kick returner.
  • One of the country’s premier FCS programs, North Dakota State, will not be playing football in 2020, as Andrew Groover of the NFL Network tweets. NDSU quarterback Trey Lance, whom NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has compared favorably to former Colts QB Andrew Luck, is a candidate to opt out of the program’s spring season and declare for the draft.
  • Per Thamel, the NCAA Division I Council has decided that fall sport student-athletes can participate in any number of competitions this year without it counting towards their eligibility (Twitter link). So if, say, a senior in the SEC has a down season in 2020, he can return next year to try and rebuild his stock.