By John Shinn
On Dec. 9, Dominique Franks told reporters he would return to Oklahoma for his senior season. Tuesday, the cornerback notified the Sooner coaching staff he'd changed his mind and will make himself eligible for the 2010 NFL draft.
Franks joined quarterback Sam Bradford and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as underclassmen who've elected to leave before their senior seasons. McCoy and Bradford, despite suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, are considered likely high first-round picks.
Franks, who made 42 tackles and two interceptions this past season, isn't labeled as that kind of can't-miss prospect.
"We wish Dom all the best and I hope at some point that he'll also be back to complete his degree," OU coach Bob Stoops said in a statement released by OU.
Franks told ESPN.com he has no doubts he's ready to make the jump.
"It's what's best. I can shut down one side of the field and I study and work hard enough to know what's coming," he said. "I'm going to start training today to get stronger and make sure all my techniques are great for the [NFL scouting] combine," he said.
The combine is where Franks will have to make a big impression. Going into the season, ESPN.com listed Franks as the 10th best underclassmen defensive back.
Where he ranks is up NFL teams. The combine begins Feb. 24 in Indianapolis. What he does there will either raise or lower his draft stock. OU's Pro Day is traditional held in the second week in March.
Franks isn't the only Sooner underclassmen contemplating an early jump to the NFL. Defensive end Jeremy Beal, wide receiver Ryan Broyles, safety Quinton Carter and linebacker Travis Lewis also submitted paper work to be evaluated by the NFL's College Advisory Committee.
Players receive grades and an estimate of what round they'll be taken. Those estimates, of course, are far from binding.
Back in December, Franks said it didn't matter what kind of grade he received. He planned to return to OU for his senior season.
"There's just a lot of things that I need to work on," he said. "I'm not worried about it at all. I'm coming back."
The junior, who started 27 games at OU, finished his career with 60 tackles and six interceptions. He also scored three touchdowns with two coming on interception returns and another via a fumble return. Franks also returned 29 punts for 346 yards.
Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to make themselves eligible for the NFL draft. They have another three days to withdraw from the draft and retain their eligibility, provided they haven't hired an agent.
John Shinn 366-3536 firstname.lastname@example.org