Wide receivers Andre Hastings of Georgia and Kevin Williams of Miami announced they would skip their senior seasons to join the NFL draft, joining several star underclassmen to surrender collegiate eligibility this week.
The NFL deadline for underclassmen to submit written applications for the draft was midnight Wednesday. The draft will be April 25-26 in New York and this year will reduced from 12 rounds to seven as a result of the settlement between NFL players and owners reached Wednesday.
The NFL moved the deadline from Jan. 31 to Jan. 6 this season at the request of college coaches who wanted more time to recruit replacements for players who turn pro.
Williams, a fourth-year junior, battled ankle and knee injuries through the season but is considered the Hurricanes' most dangerous speed threat. He caught 40 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns and was Miami's top punt returner with 29 returns for 202 yards. He returned four punts for touchdowns in his career, including one for 78 yards in the Hurricanes' Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama.
Hastings, saying he wants to 'do some things for my family,' was an all-Southeastern Conference slection and set single-season school records with 52 receptions for 860 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per catch. His five TDs this season allowed him to set the Bulldogs' career record with 13 scoring receptions. He made eight catches for 113 yards in Georgia's 21-14 Citrus Bowl victory over Ohio State.
Hastings joins running back Garrison Hearst in leaving Georgia early for the NFL. Hearst's decision was announced late Tuesday night.
Hearst, who finished third in balloting for the Heisman Trophy, and Notre Dame running back Jerome Bettis topped the list of players who announced they would turn pro Tuesday. Hearst rushed for 1,547 yards last season and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. He led the nation in scoring with 21 touchdowns and was second in rushing yardage behind San Diego State's Marshall Faulk. He finished third behind Miami quarterback Gino Torretta and Faulk in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
The 6-foot, 247-pound Bettis shrugged off an ankle injury and rushed for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns during his junior year. Bettis ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another score in Notre Dame's 24-3 victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day. Bettis rushed for 972 yards and 16 touchdowns in 1991.
He is expected to be one of three former Fighting Irish players to be selected in the first round of the draft, with quarterback Rick Mirer and running back Reggie Brooks.
Also giving up their eligibility Tuesday were wide receivers Phillip Bobo of Washington State and Sean Dawkins of California; running back Natrone Means of North Carolina; safeties Roger Harper of Ohio State, Othello Henderson of UCLA, Patrick Bates of Texas A&M and Mike Reid of North Carolina State, and defensive tackle Leonard Renfro of Colorado.
Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Florida State linebacker Marvin Jones, Southern Cal wide receiver Curtis Conway and Ohio State running back Robert Smith announced Monday they would enter the April draft.