Draft can wait for defensive standout

Before the beginning of this past football season I wrote an article that began by saying TCU was not getting any recognition as a BCS buster.

While they might not have crashed the BCS party, it was still an exciting season, capping it all off with a 17-16 win against then-No. 9 Boise State.

Now for all of his hard work, head coach Gary Patterson was awarded with a contract extension through 2014 worth a reported $1.7 to $2 million per year.

A big reason for both this season’s and Patterson’s success is the Frogs’ defense. They lead the nation in total defense this season, allowing an average of 217.8 yards per game. This is the third time in the last nine seasons they have earned that honor. TCU is the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision that has achieved that feat in that time span.

The star of the defense was once again a defensive end, junior Jerry Hughes. Hughes played admirably, filling the void left by Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz on the defensive line.

Hughes was named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year after finishing the regular season with an FBS-leading, MWC-record 14 sacks. But that wasn’t the end of his stat line. The junior also recorded six forced fumbles, 18.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and one pick returned for a touchdown.

Now he has to make a decision by Thursday’s deadline: stay for his senior season or declare for the NFL draft.

I hope he decides to stay for multiple reasons.

First, this defense was the best in the country last season and it is already losing a lot of key players due to graduation. Some of those key players are safeties Stephen Hodge and Steven Coleman and linebackers Jason Phillips and Robert Henson. It would be nice to have an experienced game-changing player in the limelight.

Second, I have always thought players should stay through their senior season and get their diplomas. A handful of players make ridiculous amounts of money in the first round of the draft, but for everyone else, they will be lucky to see one nice check. And that money won’t last very long, especially in this economy.

Finally, I am a fan. I labeled him a “manbeast” in one of my columns last semester and I stand by that. He was listed as one of the 20 best draft picks by ESPN during the season, but his stock has since dropped all the way down to No. 32. So if ESPN thinks he could use another year to get ready to play on Sundays, he should take advantage of it.

Next season’s schedule gets a little easier, with no Oklahoma on the schedule and with Utah coming to Fort Worth. If Hughes comes back and Patterson continues to earn his money, maybe next year everyone will consider the Frogs a BCS buster.