Is Washington quarterback Jake Locker going to be the Pac-10's only junior star not entering the NFL draft a year early?
That group of four is almost certainly going to be joined by Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, who hasn't made an "official" announcement but every indication -- including an apparent Senior Bowl invitation -- is he's leaving. USC receiver Damian Williams also hasn't made an official announcement but is expected to enter the draft.
While there's almost always a surprising declaration or two before the deadline -- recall California tight end Cameron Morrah out-of-the-blue decision to bolt last year -- three other marquee players are on the clock before the Jan. 15 deadline to make a decision: USC running back Joe McKnight, Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski and Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea.
McKnight has told reporters he plans to return, but that was before he got mixed up in some potential NCAA trouble and was suspended from the Emerald Bowl.
As for Paea, he's evaluating his situation now. The general feeling is that he could improve his draft status with another year of seasoning -- he's only played football since his senior year of high school -- but it might prove to be too tempting to pass up an opportunity to start getting paid.
Fact is, there are many financial reasons to leave early, not the least of which is the NFL's uncertain labor situation.