Thursday, January 11
Bad Peach Bowl prompts early entry

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU quarterback Josh Booty said he will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

"This is a decision I've struggled with over the last few months. But I think it's best for me," Booty said at a news conference Thursday.

A month ago Booty said he would likely stay at LSU. However, this week he made it known he was leaning toward the NFL, in part because of a poor performance in the Peach Bowl.

Several other big-name players declared early for the draft Thursday, as the deadline to do so -- Friday at 5 p.m. ET -- drew nearer.

Wisconsin suffered a double dose of bad news when running back Michael Bennett and cornerback Jamal Fletcher confirmed earlier reports that they will skip their senior seasons.

Auburn also lost two Thursday: tailback Rudi Johnson, who led the Southeastern Conference in rushing, and junior fullback Heath Evans. Auburn leading receiver Ronney Daniels had already announced Saturday he would skip his final two seasons.

Booty, 25, was an All-American in high school but started college football late after attempting a professional baseball career.

In 1999, Booty led the nation in interceptions per attempt with 19 in 333 attempts. This season, under new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, Booty improved markedly, but still struggled at times.

LSU won the Peach Bowl over Georgia Tech 28-14. But Booty was sacked three times and fumbled twice while completing 8 of 19 passes for 110 yards in the first half with LSU trailing 14-3.

Early in the season, Booty appeared to have lost the starting job when he threw a late game interception that dumbfounded coach Nick Saban and allowed UAB to kick the winning field goal in a stunning 13-10 upset in Baton Rouge.

Davey started the next two games but then was hobbled with a leg injury. Booty returned and was stellar in consecutive victories over Kentucky, Mississippi State, Alabama and Ole Miss. He completed 73 of 132 passes for 1,036 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, making him among the leaders nationally in passing efficiency.

In his final regular season game, however, Booty was 6-for-27 with two interceptions in a 14-3 loss in the rain at Arkansas.

Agent Leigh Steinberg, whose relationship with Booty stems from the quarterback's pro baseball days, said the Peach Bowl caused Booty to change his mind about this April's draft.

Steinberg, who would be Booty's football agent if he turns pro, said he told Booty he could be drafted anywhere from the second to the fourth round.

"I think Josh has all the natural gifts and all the natural tools," Steinberg said. "Josh has all the size (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) and arm strength you would want."

The biggest name to declare for the draft early on Wednesday was Texas A&M fullback Ja'Mar Toombs on Wednesday.

"This is not a decision for myself," Toombs told The Dallas Morning News. "This is strictly for my family. I love Texas A&M and I'll always be an Aggie. I appreciate the support I've received from the fans these three years, and I hope all the fans will support my decision.

"The only thing that would have stopped me is if someone had told me I wasn't going to get drafted at all," Toombs said.

Toombs ended his junior season by rushing 193 yards and scoring three touchdowns in a 43-41 loss to Mississippi State in the Independence Bowl on New Year's Eve.

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