Virginia Tech defensive end Jason Worilds has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft, leaving the Hokies with six starters they'll have to replace on defense in 2010.
"After considerable thought and prayer, and consulting with my family, I've decided to forgo my senior year at Virginia Tech and enter the NFL draft," Worilds said on a Thursday afternoon teleconference.
Worilds declined to say how high the NFL draft advisory board projected he would be taken, but said that he expects to be taken on the first day. He has not hired an agent yet.
Worilds made 49 tackles this season, including 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He also had one forced fumble, one pass breakup and a team-leading 32 quarterback hurries. Statistically, it was a less impressive season than his sophomore year in which Worilds finished with 18.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
Worilds said he expects he will also train as a linebacker and is comfortable enough to handle the outside linebacker position.
"Positionwise, I don't have any personal preference," he said. "I just want to get on the field and do what I love to do. I have heard different things, and it really depends schematically on what the team runs. Certain teams that run 4-3 will have me as a down lineman in a three-point stance, and teams that run a 3-4 would have me standing up as an outside linebacker."
Worilds said he had been going back and forth on his decision for the past week or so, and said it was "extremely difficult."
"The camaraderie you get from playing with your teammates and being with those guys every day, you grow a strong bond. In that locker room we're a band of brothers, so it was extremely difficult but I also know they understand I had to do what was best for me at the time. They understand that and I expect them to go on and win that national championship."
Virginia Tech was ranked as high as No. 4 in the BCS standings this past season, but the Hokies' national championship hopes fell short after back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina. They rebounded to win their final five games of the season, including a 37-14 win over Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Virginia Tech should earn a preseason top 10 ranking, but the loss of Worilds will make it an even more difficult rebuilding year for Bud Foster's traditionally stout defense.
"Jason is a very talented player, but is also a very smart player," coach Frank Beamer said in a prepared statement. "He has the toughness to be successful after playing through a shoulder injury last year. We wish him a long NFL career. He was great for Virginia Tech and we wish him the best in the NFL."
Heather Dinich covers the ACC for ESPN.com.