UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers will forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft, the school announced in a statement Monday.
Ayers, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound junior, was a second-team Walter Camp All-American, a Butkus Award finalist and an All Pac-10 selection after finishing with 68 tackles, four sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and two interceptions.
"I will miss playing with my UCLA teammates next year but I feel that the decision to go to the NFL is what is best for my family," Ayers said in the statement.
Ayers is projected as a first-round pick in most pre-draft projections, including No. 16 on Mel Kiper, Jr.'s Big Board. He's a versatile athlete with a knack for making big plays. He scored three defensive touchdowns in 2009.
"Akeem has been a big-play performer throughout his career at UCLA and we support his decision to move to the next level," said head coach Rick Neuheisel. "Who will ever forget his interceptions against Oregon and Temple that he turned into touchdowns or his many sacks? We will miss Akeem, but we look forward to watching him make those same types of plays on Sundays in the NFL."
Ayers finishes his career with 183 tackles, eight sacks and 20 tackles for a loss in three seasons. Neuheisel fired defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough last month and is in the process of hiring a replacement.
UCLA also announced that incoming freshmen Sam Tai and Aaron Wallace have enrolled at school and will participate in spring practice.
Tai (6-4, 234) is a defensive end from Liberty High in Henderson, Nev. Wallace (6-4, 215), the son of former Oakland Raiders linebacker Aaron Wallace, is a linebacker from Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego.
Peter Yoon covers UCLA for ESPNLosAngeles.com.