Athens — Perhaps it wasn’t the most anticipated NFL decision of Georgia’s winter but it was still considerable. Defensive tackle Jeff Owens informed coach Mark Richt Thursday he would return for an encore senior season.
“One more year won’t hurt me,” Owens said. “I love college.”
The anchor to the defensive front, Owens went down with a torn ACL in his right knee in the first quarter of the opener against Georgia Southern and was lost for the year.
A certain first-day draft selection if he had been healthy, Owens determined there was more to gain by remaining for a fifth season. He is on schedule to graduate in May.
“You think about the risks of coming back and getting hurt again,” he said. “You have a small window to play professional football. I feel if I come back another year and get healthy, be in the greatest shape of my life, then I could do big things on the field.
“I’ve matured now that I’ve had this season-ending injury and get back for a great year next year.”
Though the Bulldogs return the services of tackle Geno Atkins and Cade Weston next year, Owens is a locker room favorite. Richt values his presence as much off the field as on.
“Jeff’s awesome,” Richt said. “I said I want what’s best for you but I’m very excited to just get to hang around you another year. He is a glue guy.”
Owens was uncertain if would be able to take part in full activities in spring practice but anticipates being 100 percent by next season.
“We lost to Tech,” he said. “Can’t leave having lost to Tech.”
said he does not compare notes often with quarterback about his decision on whether to leave school early for the NFL. Moreno said he is just trying to take in and enjoy what could be his last game as a Bulldog. Asked if he would factor in the “unfinished business” of the failed bid at the 2008 national championship, Moreno did not dismiss it.
“It could be,” he said. “We wanted to win the national championship. After a couple big games, we didn’t have a chance to do that. But definitely coming back (for another run), that could be awesome.”
In a 15-minute session, Moreno at least sounded completely undecided on the issue. Both he and Stafford have petitioned the NFL Draft Advisory Board to project how they might fare in next spring draft but that as close to any commitment that Moreno is making this week.
“It just comes down to what you want to do personally,” he said. “It’s a gut feeling, I think. That’s what it comes down to. There are a number of things that go into the decision. It’s a tough decision.”
By THOMAS STINSON
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, December 18, 2008