Oregon might have said mahalo to quarterback Marcus Mariota on Wednesday as he announced his intent to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, but it will say the same to another Ducks star from Hawaii who'll be coming back.
Fast-rising defensive lineman DeForest Buckner will return to Eugene for his senior season rather than declare for the 2015 NFL Draft, he announced on the school's website Wednesday.
"After sitting down with my parents and weighing all the pros and cons, I have come to the conclusion that it is best for me to return to school for my senior year," Buckner said in a release. "I am close to finishing my degree, and that is very important to me. That is the reason I came here in the first place."
A junior, Buckner has started 23 straight games for the Ducks and will bolster a defense that struggled in the national title game against Ohio State but overall had a better than expected season in 2014. Buckner finished the year with 81 tackles and led the team in tackles for loss.
Buckner saw his stock take off in the team's run toward the College Football Playoff. At least one scout told CFB 24/7 that he was a better player than teammate Arik Armstead, who announced he would apply for early entry into the 2015 draft. Buckner, a 6-foot-7, 290-pounder, brings a rare blend of size and athleticism to his defensive end spot.
"I love the University of Oregon and see big things for us next year," Buckner said. "Plus, I feel that another year of experience here and under Coach (Ron) Aiken can only help my development and better prepare me for the next level."
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah noted that Buckner showed off his range and quickness against the Buckeyes in the title game. After the contest, he said he had not made a decision but would speak with coaches before the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare.
With his return to the Ducks, Buckner figures to be one of several prospects to keep an eye on for in the run up to the 2016 NFL Draft.