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January 3, 2012

Burfict expected to declare for NFL Draft

Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict announced via his Facebook account Monday that he's planning to forgo his final season of eligibility at the school and enter the NFL Draft.

Thanking fans and teammates, Burfict wrote that he will be "expanding (his) talents to the next level." Burfict had previously changed his occupation status on the page to full-time professional athlete nearly two weeks ago.

Burfict, who was a preseason All-American entering the 2011 season, had what coach Dennis Erickson described as an "average" year and was not selected for Pac-12 post-season honors by the league's coaches.

As a junior, Burfict finished second on the Sun Devils with 69 tackles, with seven for a loss including five sacks. He also had one interception and one fumble recovery.

His most recent ASU season was a step backward from a sophomore campaign that saw him make 90 tackles and earn second-team all-league honors.

In 2009, Burfict was a first-team freshman All-American by Rivals.com, when he was also the freshman Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-10.

Burfict arrived at ASU as the most decorated recruit in the program's history, a Top-10 national recruit regardless of position. He drew comparisons by Erickson to 13-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis, whom Erickson coached at the University of Miami in the 1990s, but did not live up to the lofty praise.

As an NFL prospect, Burfict has much to prove after a season that unquestionably hurt his draft stock. A player who once projected almost universally as a Top-15 selection, it now appears Burfict is a long shot to be taken in the first round due to his sub-par junior season and questions about his work ethic and character.

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