Where it stands right now in the SEC in terms of players leaving early for the NFL or coming back:
Georgia TE Orson Charles
Ole Miss OT Bobby Massie
Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox
South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery
South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore
Alabama OT Barrett Jones
Alabama OT D.J. Fluker
Arkansas RB Knile Davis
Auburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen
Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb
Georgia NT John Jenkins
Georgia LB Jarvis Jones
Georgia S Bacarri Rambo
LSU DE Sam Montgomery
Georgia tight end Orson Charles had no problem Wednesday afternoon announcing his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
"To tell you the truth, it wasn't very difficult at all," Charles said. "It's been a blessing to be in this situation, and I thank God for allowing me to be in this situation. Either way, I wouldn't have been wrong, but the one reason I felt I should enter the draft is that I have met a majority of my goals."
Several hours after Charles went public with his choice, Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo elected to return for his senior year. Rambo led the SEC this season with eight interceptions and was an Associated Press first-team All-American.
Charles had 45 receptions for 574 yards and five touchdowns this past season and was a finalist for the John Mackey Award, which is given annually to college football's top tight end. The 6-foot-3, 241-pounder from Tampa was an All-SEC selection and was tabbed first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.
Being a Mackey finalist and an All-American were two of his goals, according to Charles, who becomes the 21st Georgia player in the Mark Richt era to leave early for the pros.
Charles said he came to his decision Tuesday. He sought advice from former Bulldogs tight ends Ben Watson and Randy McMichael, and he said former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy has had the biggest impact.
"We've talked almost every day," Charles said.
Charles amassed 1,370 receiving yards in three seasons, the most ever for a Georgia tight end, and leaves behind a position that will be headed this spring by Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome. Lynch didn't have any receptions this past season as a redshirt sophomore, while Rome was a freshman who redshirted.
Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham issued a statement Wednesday to address rumors that he was returning to the NFL. Grantham said that he and athletic director Greg McGarity are finalizing details on a contract extension.
"We have the program headed in the right direction, and I want to be a part of bringing Georgia a championship," he said. "My desire is to be at UGA for a very long time."
Former Georgia and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was introduced Wednesday as Auburn's defensive coordinator. VanGorder went 2-2 against Auburn when he coached the Bulldogs, losing his last encounter when the 2004 Tigers won 24-6 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"They had Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown and Jason Campbell and that group," he said. "That was one great team, and I remember the electricity that day was just unbelievable."
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik reiterated that he targeted VanGorder from the start and said he was the only candidate he talked with. Chizik was Auburn's defensive coordinator in 2002-04, which coincided with VanGorder's final three seasons in Athens, and the two have mutual friends from Central Florida.
VanGorder was UCF's defensive coordinator from 1995 to '97, and Chizik had that job from 1998 to '2001.
Though it has been several years since he had to recruit, VanGorder believes he will be strong in that area with three sons currently in college. He said he is still a "4-3 guy" but that the Tigers will be multiple in their schemes.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...