At least a dozen Pac-12 football players have opted out of the 2020 season, most of them since the conference shut down the fall season back on Aug. 11.
That group includes four players projected as first-round NFL draft picks by the website Walter Football: Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, Washington linebacker Joe Tryon, Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little and USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele.
Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike is listed as a first-round pick in a CBS Sports mock draft.
The list of players who opted out also includes Cal cornerback Camryn Bynum, but not former Bears defensive lineman Luc Bequette, who transferred to Boston College.
Many of them are expected to stay the course and prepare for the NFL draft. But with the Pac-12’s about-face on Thursday — a plan to start a seven-game season on the weekend of Nov. 6-7 — how many of the 12 may decide they’d like to opt in again?
Bynum has made no public announcement suggesting a change in plans, but it’s early. When the 2019 second-team All-Pac-12 selection made decision to leave school, he said it was primarily because the conference had postponed the fall season.
Now there will be a fall schedule, so Bynum will have the opportunity to possibly reconsider.
It’s unknown whether he has hired an agent in the nearly three weeks since announcing he would turn pro. Doing so could make a return to college football more complicated, but wouldn’t necessarily close the door.
Cal coach Justin Wilcox, without naming names, said the Bears have had “a couple” players opt out. He added that Cal will release an updated roster “soon . . . when it’s appropriate.”
The NCAA has a Student-Athlete Reinstatement process that allows players to seek waivers or remedy that allow them to regain eligibility under various circumstances.
USC coach Clay Helton told the Los Angeles Times he believes Tufele — who already has hired an agent — might have an avenue to return if he chooses.
“We’re seeing across the country there are some waivers being put in place just because of these special situations that are happening, especially with not knowing we’re going to have a season,” Helton said. “There have been other schools where waivers have been applied.”
Oregon’s Sewell, the 2019 Outland Trophy winner and a projected top-5 draft pick, is unlikely to return to school, two sources told the Oregonian.
Ducks coach Mario Cristobal isn’t expecting a change of heart from his star O-lineman. “He made his decision, and certainly for him and his situation, he’s a projected maybe second or third overall pick,” Cristobal told the newspaper. “It’s the right time and the right thing for him to do.”
At Oregon State, linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. has been the subject of speculation he might exit. He is envisioned as a possible second- or third-round draft pick, but Beavers coach Jonathan Smith told the Corvallis Gazette-Times Rashed will play at OSU this fall.
Here is a list of Pac-12 players who have opted out of this season, with the date they made their announcement in parenthesis. None of them, as of Friday night, had publicly announced returning to school:
— DT Levi Onwuzurike, Washington (Sept. 17): Was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick last fall.
— OT Walker Little, Stanford (Sept. 10): A first-team All-Pac-12 selection as a sophomore in 2018, Little suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener last year.
— DB Thomas Graham, Oregon (Sept. 10): Has started 39 games for the Ducks and has eight interceptions.
— OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC (Sept. 9): Was a second-team All-Pac-12 pick at left guard last season.
— CB Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon (Sept. 9): Lenoir has started 27 games for the Ducks.
— OT Penei Sewell, Oregon (Sept. 7): Regarded as the Pac-12’s best pro prospect, Sewell played 1,376 snaps over the past two seasons and allowed just one sack.
— CB Camryn Bynum, Cal (Sept. 6): A fifth-year senior, Bynum has started 38 consecutive games for the Bears.
— LB Joe Tryon, Washington (Aug. 29): Tryon had eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss last season on the way to earning second-team all-conference honors.
— DT Jay Tufele, USC (Aug. 19): At 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, Tufele had 65 tackles, including 7.5 sacks, the past two seasons.
— DB Patrick Nunn, Washington State (Aug. 4): Nunn, who totaled 10 tackles last season, opted out in support of the #WeAreUnited movement, according to the Spokesman-Review.
— WR Kassidy Woods, Washington State (Aug. 1): Woods and new coach Nick Rolovich reportedly disagreed over Woods’ support of the #WeAreUnited initiative, but the player ultimately said he opted out for health reasons because he has sickle cell trait.
— QB Kevin Doyle, Arizona (Aug. 1): A backup who has yet to play in two seasons, Doyle said in a tweet that if NFL players were giving up “tens of millions of dollars, there must be more risk than I can even perceive.”
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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