Add Lane Kiffin to the list of college football coaches that have all but waved goodbye to a star underclassman whom they expect to declare early eligibility for the 2015 NFL Draft. The Alabama offensive coordinator thinks the College Football Playoff will be his last chance to work with junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.
"I don't have to worry about him coming back next year," Kiffin told 103.7 The Buzz after the Broyles Award -- given annually to the nation's top college assistant -- ceremony in Little Rock, Ark. "That's pretty much done."
Kiffin did not win the Broyles Award -- it went to Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman.
Cooper, a Heisman Trophy finalist, has shattered Alabama receiving records this season in leading the nation in catches (115) and receiving yards (1,656). He's declined comment on the decision of whether to turn pro, but is widely considered among the top receiving prospects in the nation.
Several NFL personnel executives told NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah that Cooper would have ranked among the top four receivers in the 2014 draft. Underclassmen have until a Jan. 15 deadline to declare early draft eligibility.
Kiffin isn't the only coach who has resigned himself to parting with a star player. UCLA coach Jim Mora has said much the same of Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley. Georgia coach Mark Richt doesn't see star running back Todd Gurley returning to college, either.