North Carolina came into 2010 with a star studded defense full of top draft prospects. Today, three of those prospects were officially ruled out for the year. UNC made star defensive end Robert Quinn and receiver Greg Little ineligible and dismissed defensive tackle Marvin Austin. The NCAA said Quinn and Little were to be made ineligble after violating rules involving agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct. Reports say they accepted “jewelry, travel accommodations and other benefits” and “according to facts submitted by the university, Little took nearly $5,000 worth of benefits and the value of Quinn’s total exceeded $5,600.”
Austin had been suspended since September 1st after violating an unnamed team rule. The Tar Heels did not seek to have him reinstated. The trio were amongst 13 players who didn’t start the season whilst an investigation was conducted. Some have been able to return, but this development is pretty substantial considering the high profile individuals involved. Quinn had been expected to be a very high first round pick next April, potentially first overall. He had 11 sacks last season. There’s a chance he’ll still go early, but teams will look into this situation and do their homework. You have to wonder also if not playing for essentially two years (that’s what it’ll be when he makes his NFL debut) will affect his performance or conditioning?
Little was considered a mid-round level receiver. He lacks elite blazing speed, but he’s a solid overall prospect with good ball skills and plays with a competitive edge. In 2009 he recorded 724 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Austin was a little bit over rated as a first round prospect – for me he was strictly in the mid-round range. He had perhaps the most to prove this year – he missed two games in 2009 as a coaches decision. Questions have been asked about his attitude and work ethic. You watch the tape and want to see more from a guy with his size and potential – he just doesn’t bring it every play. He didn’t need to be dismissed without playing a snap in 2010.
Essentially, all three can now prepare for the combine. That could be a make or break situation for all. If they take for granted this time off and show up at Indianapolis in anything but peak condition – teams will just plant a red flag in their direction. If they can work hard and stay in game shape, that’ll be considered a plus. Dez Bryant (WR, Dallas) missed the vast majority of 2009 but remained a first round pick. He didn’t, however, go as early as some people thought he could do. For a guy like Quinn, not performing may not be such a terrible thing. People remember his 2009 performances which were raw but generally good. Little will probably do enough – if he works hard – to maintain his stock. Austin has a major challenge to repair the damage created by this dismissal.