Miami coach Mark Richt has taken a stance against NFL draft prospects skipping bowl games to begin draft preparations, a stance that sets him apart from some other college coaches who have been asked about the issue this week.
Two of college football's top prospects, LSU RB Leonard Fournette and Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey -- both of whom had previously announced plans to file for early draft eligibility as underclassmen -- will skip the Citrus Bowl and Sun Bowl, respectively. Baylor RB Shock Linwood announced he would skip the Cactus Bowl, as well.
"I think it's sad, personally," Richt said Tuesday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. "I think football is the greatest team sport there is, and I think until the season is over, you should be with your team, really and truly."
Several college coaches have been asked about the practice this week, including Clemson's Dabo Swinney, Alabama's Nick Saban and Florida's Jim McElwain. Saban said the advent of the College Football Playoff has helped create an environment where all other bowls are less important, but added "you can't blame the kids." Florida's Jim McElwain called it a personal decision, and Clemson's Dabo Swinney said it's better for a player not fully committed to his team to move on.
None were as critical as Richt, who suggested the teammates of players who skip a bowl game likely aren't as supportive as they would let on.
"Football is the greatest game," Richt said. "It's the greatest game because it's a team game. Everybody is counting on each other. I bet their teammates are like, 'I understand. I understand,' maybe face to face. But I bet you when they lay their head on the pillow, they're like, 'Why is that guy doing that? We're a team. We paid the price together.' I think it's sad. That's how I look at it."
An NFC West scout told College Football 24/7 that he would not expect the draft stock of players of Fournette's and McCaffrey's caliber to be negatively affected by sitting out a bowl game. NFL.com analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks echoed that remark, but noted that a prospect skipping a College Football Playoff game would be viewed differently by scouts.