Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley is skipping his senior season at Auburn to enter the NFL draft. The potential No. 1 overall pick announced his decision yesterday at his old high school in Mobile, Ala., saying he didn’t make up his mind until that morning.
“I was thinking, ‘What more could I accomplish my senior year?’’’ Fairley said. He and quarterback Cam Newton — who is also turning pro — led the Tigers to a 14-0 season and their first national title since 1957.
Fairley was the defensive MVP in the BCS title game against Oregon when he had a sack, three tackles for losses and forced a fumble. He also led the Southeastern Conference with 24 tackles for a loss and had a school-record 11.5 sacks.
Fairley said he had a long visit with Auburn coach Gene Chizik and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, then came home and talked it over with his parents.
“It’s crazy for me to be in this position,’’ Fairley said. “Coming into this year, I didn’t think things were going to be this big. I didn’t know I was going to have a big year like that.’’
If he is taken first in the draft, Fairley would join former Williamson High quarterback JaMarcus Russell as a No. 1 pick from the school.
Polk to return to Huskies Washington running back Chris Polk said he will return to the Huskies for his junior season. Polk is coming off the second-best season in school history, running for 1,415 yards. He capped his season with a career-high 284 yards — second most in school history — against Washington State, then ran for 177 yards in a Holiday Bowl upset of Nebraska. Polk rushed for 1,146 yards as a freshman, becoming the first Washington freshman to top 1,000 yards . . . Southern California receiver Markeith Ambles reconsidered his plan to transfer and will stay with the Trojans, while receiver Thearon Collier will leave the school after just a few months on campus. The Miami transfer never played for the Trojans. With Collier’s departure, USC has just 59 scholarship players . . . Once Florida hired offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to run a pro-style offense, John Brantley’s decision was clear. Brantley, mostly ineffective in Florida’s spread system, will stay and finish his college career with the Gators. Brantley considered transferring after coach Urban Meyer stepped down last month.
Keenum granted sixth year The NCAA granted a sixth year of eligibility to Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who missed the final nine games of the 2010 season with a torn knee ligament. Keenum led the nation in total offense (5,829 yards) and yards passing (5,671) in 2009. He made three starts in 2010 before his injury and ranks fifth in passing in Division 1-A history. He needs 3,487 yards to surpass Tim Chang’s career mark (17,072) and is 28 TD passes shy of Graham Harrell’s career record (134).
Tulsa tabs Blankenship Tulsa assistant Bill Blankenship was promoted to head coach, replacing Todd Graham, who left to take over as coach at Pittsburgh . . . Former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni was introduced as Connecticut coach, describing his position as “absolutely the right fit.’’ The UConn job is a homecoming for Pasqualoni, 61, who grew up in Cheshire and was head coach and athletic director at Western Connecticut from 1982-86 . . . Fired Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez donated 12 bags of Wolverines apparel to a Detroit-area Salvation Army store. Rodriguez brought 432 items to the store in Wayne, less than a week after his ouster.