Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy's decision whether to turn pro early as a third-year sophomore wasn't too difficult, given his untapped potential and third- to fourth-round draft grade.
This year, as a junior, Ealy has an even higher profile as a prospect and a much tougher call on his hands. And to help him with the decision, he's making a few calls of his own. According to columbiatribune.com, he's in touch with several NFL players who also played at Missouri, including New York Jets rookie Sheldon Richardson, who is Ealy's cousin, Aldon Smith and others.
"It's a decision where I have to look at, my time being here, is it time for me to move on? Or do I need to stay one more year and learn a little?" Ealy said. "Those are things I have to look into and rate myself as a player, to rate my decision as to whether I need to stay or leave."
Ealy (6-5, 275 pounds) was all over the field for the Tigers this season. He made 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, with team highs in quarterback hurries with seven, and forced fumbles with three. Two of those forced fumbles came against Auburn in the SEC title game. Ealy wasn't as much of a playmaker in the early part of the season, however.
"A lot of people don't know our schemes and that I took a lot of double teams and stuff in the first half of the season," he said. "Yes, I wasn't productive. There were a lot of eyes on me as far as being classified as a productive player going into the season. It would be smart for a lot of people to double-team me, but at the same time, it frees up people like (defensive ends) Michael Sam and Markus Golden."
Ealy is just one class shy of graduating.
"If the guy is going to be a top-five pick or something like that, we want him to go," Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. "If he's not going to be a high-round draft pick, we don't advise him to go. There are four-year contracts now. You can go in there and have the best rookie season of anybody, and you won't even be able to redo your contract. You're locked in for four. You've got to get the money up front."