Virginia linebacker Max Valles announced Tuesday that he will enter the NFL draft, the second Virginia underclassman to leave school early.
Valles joins defensive end Eli Harold on the way to the pros. Interestingly, Valles said on his Twitter account last month that he would return to school in 2015. He did not give a reason why he changed his mind. Players have until Jan. 15 to withdraw their names while still maintaining NCAA eligibility.
I'll be a wahoo for life! Thanks for the memories UVA! pic.twitter.com/0LtlbwABiD— Max Valles (@big_black5) January 6, 2015
Valles is not listed among Mel Kiper Jr.'s top linebacker prospects. Harold is listed as the No. 8 outside linebacker.
In a statement, coach Mike London seemed to disagree with Valles' decision.
"Based on the improvement and development he showed the past two years, I felt Max Valles was a player who could really benefit from playing another year of college football, London said. "I believe he was on the verge of blossoming into a dominant player. He took a lot of time during the semester break to think this decision through and he feels it is the right thing to do at this time. I hate to see him go, but I want to wish him the best on his choice to declare for the NFL draft.”
Losing Valles and Harold is a definite hit to a Virginia defense that made big improvements this past season. The two combined for 16 of the team's 34 sacks and had 27 tackles for loss. In addition, Virginia must also replace senior linebackers Henry Coley and Daquan Romero, and senior safety Anthony Harris from its defense. The Hoos did get a measure of good defensive news Monday, though, when cornerback Demetrious Nicholson was granted a sixth year of eligibility.
The ACC has had 10 underclassmen declare for the NFL draft, with potentially more on the way. Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams also announced Tuesday he would turn pro. Several more Seminoles have yet to announce their decisions. Quarterback Jameis Winston will announce his after the national championship game.
The 2015 NFL draft will be held April 30-May 2 in Chicago.