Ducks' Thomas to enter NFL draft
EUGENE, Ore. (AP)
Thomas made the announcement, which caught many by surprise, on Saturday night. He follows Oregon running back LaMichael James, who announced last week that he would skip his final year of eligibility.
''I came to this decision on behalf of myself and my family,'' Thomas said in a statement released by Oregon. ''I have a dream of playing in the NFL and I'm going to pursue those dreams.''
Thomas had already filed the necessary paperwork with the NFL, the school said. If he doesn't hire an agent, he has until this Wednesday to reconsider his decision.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior passed for 2,761 yards and a school-record 33 touchdowns this past season, despite missing a game because of an injury. He also ran for three scores. He threw only seven interceptions.
The Ducks finished 12-2 with losses to LSU and USC before beating Wisconsin 45-38 in the Rose Bowl. The previous season, the Ducks lost only to Auburn in the BCS championship game.
''As in all cases, we educate our players with the information we feel will be beneficial to them throughout the process but ultimately, the decision is left up to the players,'' Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. ''I will always support Darron in his decision and want to thank him for everything he has done for this program. He obviously has played a major role in elevating Oregon football to new heights and I wish him well in the future.''
Kelly and Thomas weren't available for further comment Saturday.
Thomas ended his career 23-3 as a starter.
He had a school-record 66 touchdown passes in 31 games with the Ducks. He ranks sixth on the school's career list with 6,629 yards of total offense and seventh with 5,910 yards passing.
When Thomas injured his left leg in Oregon's victory over Arizona State on Oct. 15, Bennett started the next week at Colorado and threw for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
James, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010, declared on Jan. 6 that he would leave school early to enter the draft, but that decision had been widely anticipated.
A 5-foot-9, 195-pound All-American, James rushed for a school-record 1,805 yards this season despite missing two games with a dislocated right elbow. He led the nation with an average of 150.4 yards rushing per game.
James is the first Pac-12 player to have three straight 1,500-yard seasons.
On Friday, fellow running back Barner said he would stay at Oregon for his senior year.
Barner ran for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and caught 17 passes for 184 yards and three scores.
On Twitter, Barner defended Thomas for his decision, posting: ''Get my off boy DT ur not walking in his shoes so u don't know what his reasoning is for leaving God bless bro do ya thing.''