December 23, 2008

Exclusive on Sergio Kindle's big decision

At the Texas football banquet, Sergio Kindle had all but made up his mind - he was staying for his senior season, according to a source close to Kindle.

But Kindle is waiting for his NFL evaluation to come back, just like the other juniors on the team who submitted the paperwork for the NFL's best guess at where they'll be drafted in April.

The source said Kindle wants to stay at Texas because he has dreams of doing what Brian Orakpo did this season - help his team win big while being recognized as one of the best, if not the best, defensive players in college football.

But the source said Kindle also wants to hear from his coaches about what they envision for him if he returns. Communication with the coaches has been tough because they've been so busy recruiting, and Kindle is already back in Dallas with his dad for the Christmas break.

Will Muschamp is scheduled to go to Dallas to meet with Kindle after Christmas - before the team leaves for the Fiesta Bowl. That meeting will likely prove critical in Kindle's decision to stay at Texas or jump to the NFL. If Kindle feels like the coaches are as excited about the possibility of him staying as he wants them to be, then there's a good chance Kindle will stay, my source said.

Kindle has been back and forth on the decision to stay or go this season. But Muschamp being retained as coach-in-waiting all but turned Kindle from a likely jump to the NFL into a strong possibility of staying. The way the team finished the year, coupled with Brian Orakpo's ability to graduate and collect some big-time hardware got Kindle excited about the possibility of staying. Kindle wants his T-Ring. The influence of Muschamp has made a big impact on Kindle, who felt underappreciated at Texas his first two seasons - some of it his own fault.

My source said Kindle's family - namely his father - is doing as well economically as he has been in a long time. So there is not the financial pressure for Kindle to jump to the NFL that there might have been in recent years. Kindle is from inner-city Dallas, and comes from modest means.

But Kindle's relationship with Muschamp has been critical in all of this. Muschamp is the one who can get through to Kindle because Muschamp is the one who came in and put him in position to collect nine sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 15 QB pressures, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and place fourth on the team in tackles with 50.

"Sergio believes in Will so much," the source said. "The fact they are meeting in Dallas after Christmas with Sergio's dad will be a huge factor in Sergio's decision. I don't think Sergio has made a decision at this point. But I get the sense Sergio is closer to staying than he is to leaving right now. The thing about Will is he knows how to talk to the kids. He connects with Sergio."

The NFL evaluations for the juniors are expected to start arriving around Jan. 3 or 4. With the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5, Mack Brown has told the players to go ahead and talk to their parents about the evaluation but to wait to make any announcements until after the bowl game.

Kindle was telling some people close to him after mid-season that he was probably gone to the NFL. But Muschamp being retained changed everything. Then, Orakpo picking up some hardware happened and Kindle saw himself trying to do the same thing in 2009.

Now, after Texas learned that Jordan Shipley has been awarded a sixth year of eligibility, it appears there might be some more good news coming with regard to Sergio Kindle possibly staying at Texas. The determining factors appear to be Kindle's meeting with Muschamp after Christmas in Dallas and the NFL evaluation. If it's a first-round grade, it will be hard to ignore. My NFL sources have projected Kindle as a high second-round draft pick with a shot at being taken late in the first round.

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