BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell said Wednesday he'll skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
"It kind of hit me toward the end of the season that I was going to make that jump," Russell said at a news conference.
After a standout performance in the Sugar Bowl last week, the 6-foot-6, 257-pound Russell had been expected to declare early for the draft.
Russell, a native of Mobile, Ala., threw for 6,525 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons with LSU, two as a full-time starter. He threw for 332 yards and two TDs in the Sugar Bowl to help the Tigers (11-2) beat Notre Dame 41-14.
Had he stayed, Russell would have been considered a strong Heisman Trophy contender. He also would have been under the oversight of a new offensive coordinator after Jimbo Fisher accepted Florida State's coordinator job.
"We gave him every bit of information that might allow him to choose -- either go or stay," coach Les Miles said.
He said he thought Russell and his family made a good decision and predicted Russell could go as high as No. 1 in the draft.
Russell, who brought his family to the news conference, said he hadn't yet signed with an agent. When asked what his draft preference was, Russell replied, "Whoever picks first and whoever pays the most."
His departure starts a two-man competition to replace him between Matt Flynn, who will be a senior next season, and Ryan Perrilloux, who will be a sophomore. Miles said Flynn had the edge for the job, but he wouldn't decide until after spring practice.
Russell faced a Jan. 15 deadline to declare for the draft.