Ragnow and Cornelius made their respective decisions in December, well before the Razorbacks’ Belk Bowl loss to Virginia Tech and also far in advance of the deadline — today — for such decisions.
Although no Razorbacks are leaving school early this year, the deadline is a good time to look back on past Arkansas players who decided to leave college eligibility on the table.
Here are all the former Razorbacks who left school early over the last five years and how they fared on draft day and as professional football players.
2016: A key offensive trio leaves
RB Alex Collins
- Collins finished his career at No. 2 on Arkansas’ all-time career rushing yardage list. He carried the ball 665 times for 3,703 yards and 36 touchdowns during his career and opted to skip his senior year, paving the way for Rawleigh Williams III’s breakout season. Collins — who was drafted in the fifth round — just completed his rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks. He earned 31 carries for 125 yards and 1 touchdown during the regular season.
- Right decision? Probably. Collins really didn’t have anything else to prove at the college level, although returning in 2016 might have allowed him to break Darren McFadden’s program rushing record.
TE Hunter Henry
- The 2015 John Mackey Award winner was a second-round pick and had a very nice rookie season with the San Diego Chargers. He caught 36 passes for 478 yards and 8 touchdowns. The latter number is the fifth-most touchdowns by a rookie tight end of all time.
- Right decision? Yes. Henry appears headed toward a very successful NFL career.
LT Denver Kirkland
- Kirkland took a big risk by leaving before his college eligibility was up and it cost him. He went undrafted, a fact that caused Bret Bielema to propose allowing undrafted underclassmen to return to college. Still, Kirkland made the best of a bad situation, signing with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent and making the active roster. He made 4 starts as a rookie.
- Right decision? Definitely not. Kirkland clearly has NFL talent — he wouldn’t have started 4 games this year without it — but a strong senior season almost certainly would have resulted in him being drafted. The decision to leave a year early cost him a whole lot of money. And how much better would Arkansas’ offensive line been in 2016 with Kirkland?
2015: Philon makes the leap
DE Darius Philon
- Philon was an All-SEC performer during his redshirt sophomore season in 2014, when he recorded 46 tackles — 11.5 for loss — and 4.5 sacks. He was part of a defense that ranked in the top-10 in both total and scoring defense. He decided to skip his last two seasons of eligibility and enter the draft. Philon went in the sixth round and has appeared in 22 games over the last two seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
- Right decision? Tough to say. Philon was still drafted and has managed to stay on an NFL roster the last two years, but would his draft stock have improved with one or two more years at Arkansas?
- Unsurprisingly, no Arkansas players left school early following the Razorbacks’ 2013 season, when they went 3-9 and didn’t win any SEC games.
2013: Bailey’s risk doesn’t work out
OL Alvin Bailey
- Bailey surprised many with his decision to skip his senior season and jump into the 2013 draft, and that decision didn’t work out when Bailey went undrafted. He’s still appeared in 56 career games with 13 starts for the Seattle Seahawks and Cleveland Browns.
- Right decision? Nope. Like Kirkland, he likely cost himself a lot of money by skipping his last season of eligibility.
RB Knile Davis
- The Missouri City, Texas, native struggled through several injuries as a high schooler, but rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns as an Arkansas sophomore in 2010. He suffered a season-ending injury during fall camp the next year and announced in the spring of 2012 that he would play just one more college season. He was a third-round pick and had an interesting — and absurd — few days this season before finishing with the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Right decision? Absolutely. Someone with his injury history needed to get into the NFL as quickly as possible.
- The 2011 season for Arkansas saw the Razorbacks finish in the top 5 nationally, and the 2012 Hogs looked primed for a legitimate run at the SEC West — and maybe even the national — championship. Those hopes were only buoyed by the news that quarterback Tyler Wilson would return for his senior season. Then the Bobby Petrino scandal happened, and the Hogs limped to a 4-8 season under interim coach John L. Smith. Wilson was picked in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft and has been part of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals.