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Bielema: Coaches pushing for later draft declaration deadline

HOOVER, Ala. -- The push from college football for a later deadline for underclassmen to file for early draft eligibility is continuing behind the scenes. And on Monday at SEC Media Days, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema pulled the curtain back a bit.

Bielema said he, Alabama coach Nick Saban and several other SEC coaches are advocating to move what Bielema called the "declaration date." NFL rules set a mid-January date upon which underclassmen must file for early draft eligibility, although they then have a 72-hour window in which they can change their mind and return to college without losing NCAA eligibility.

"We had more discussions this past spring about what we can do to progressively make this a little better if they do declare themselves (draft eligible), and move back that declaration date," Bielema said. "I know Nick (Saban) and several other coaches in our league have proposed moving that date back a little bit to allow our guys to have a better understanding. There are times now where we have a bowl game in January, and a kid feels pressure or is hearing from outside sources that he needs to make a decision sooner than later. Then he makes a decision before the bowl game even takes place. That tells me that A) he's not focused on his priorities, and B) he's getting information from people who really shouldn't be gathering and giving information, and it leads to an uninformed decision."

A few days before this year's deadline, as Alabama was preparing to face Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game, Saban spoke at length about why he believes a later date would be better. Bielema cited a former Razorback he declined to name as an example of a player who would benefit from a later deadline.

"I had a young man two years ago who left early for the draft, didn't get drafted, and he has the ability to possibly start in the NFL in Year 2. For him to be an undrafted free agent, the money that he lost will never be regained," Bielema said. "I knew he had the ability, but we were just all in a hurry. We're in the microwave world where everyone wants things done in 20 seconds, but sometimes it needs to cook for two hours."

The coach has cited in the past the case of Oakland Raiders OL Denver Kirkland while advocating for the NCAA allowing undrafted underclassmen to return to college. Kirkland, undrafted as an underclassman in 2016, appeared in six games for the Raiders last year, starting four.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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