List of college football players opting out of the 2020 season

Yahoo Sports Staff
·20 mins read

With the coronavirus pandemic lingering, many college football players around the country have decided not to play in 2020.

Some players have been high-caliber NFL prospects trying to avoid any risk that could affect their draft stock. Others have voiced various other concerns about playing, despite the various safety protocols conferences have implemented.

Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel explored how many players could opt out in a July 30 story with one industry source predicting the number of opt-outs would be in the 10 to 12 range. Quincy Avery, a quarterbacks coach who works with high school and college prospects, guessed the figure could be closer to 35 or 40.

With that said, here’s a running list of notable players who decided not to play in 2020.

Anthony Hines, LB, Texas A&M (Sept. 20)

Anthony Hines, a linebacker at Texas A&M, has decided to opt out. He is the second A&M starter to opt out ahead of the start of the SEC’s season next Saturday, joining receiver Jhamon Ausbon. Hines was second on A&M with 73 tackles last season. He also had 10.5 tackles for loss.

"This year has been a wild ride to say the least," Hines said. "With everything taking place in the world right now, from the pandemic, to the blatant injustices being committed towards people of color, it's difficult to be 100% locked in to the game of football right now. I can't help but see this time as an opportunity to try & make a difference in my community. With that being said, I have chosen to opt out of the 2020 football season."

Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington (Sept. 17)

Levi Onwuzurike, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection at defensive tackle in 2019, announced Thursday that he will forgo his remaining eligibility and declare for the 2021 NFL draft. After redshirting in 2016, Onwuzurike played mainly in a reserve role in 2017 and 2018 before his breakout 2019 campaign. Onwuzurike combined for 95 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks during his time at UW.

Shaun Wade, DB, Ohio State (Sept. 14)

Shaun Wade, the Buckeyes’ star cornerback, announced Monday morning that he won’t suit up for OSU whenever the Big Ten next plays football. Instead, Wade will declare for the 2021 NFL draft and begin preparing for his professional career. He could end up being a first-round pick.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision to make, but I know it's the right decision for me,” Wade said in a video posted to Twitter. “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty surrounding our season I have decided to forgo my remaining eligibility and officially declare for the 2021 NFL draft. I am forever grateful to Buckeye Nation and looking forward to the next chapter.”

Jhamon Ausbon, WR, Texas A&M (Sept. 13)

Texas A&M has lost one of its top offensive players a few weeks before it is set to begin its season. Jhamon Ausbon, A&M’s leading receiver in 2019, announced that he will opt out of the 2020-21 season to begin preparing for the NFL. Ausbon combined to catch 147 passes for 1,818 yards and eight touchdowns over the past three seasons.

Wyatt Davis, OT, Ohio State (Sept. 11)

Davis told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that he was heading to the NFL.

According to Yahoo’s NFL draft analyst Eric Edholm, Davis could be a first-round pick in 2021.

Davis projects as one of the top guard prospects in the draft, and his draft slot likely depends on the premium that teams put on guards. One NFL scout told Yahoo Sports that Davis is a better guard prospect than Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, who went No. 24 overall last year. But the scout noted Davis hasn’t flashed Ruiz’s positional flexibility.

Davis is the first Ohio State player to opt out of the upcoming season whenever it is played.

Walker Little, OT, Stanford (Sept. 10)

Another top Pac-12 offensive lineman won’t return when the league resumes play. Walker Little, the left tackle at Stanford, said he will begin preparing for the NFL draft as he finishes his degree this fall.

“This fall, I will indeed graduate, but with so much uncertainty regarding the football season, the time is right to opt out of the 2020-21 season and prepare for the NFL Draft,” Little said.

Little, was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2018 as a sophomore. Little suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 of the 2019 season. He was prepared to return to the field under ordinary circumstances in 2020 as a senior, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans.

Thomas Graham, DB, Oregon (Sept. 10)

Another Oregon player has decided not to return whenever the Pac-12 season is played. Thomas Graham, who started 39 games for the Ducks over the past three seasons at cornerback, will forgo his final year and declare for the draft. Over those three years, Graham totaled 182 tackles, 40 pass breakups and eight interceptions.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC (Sept. 9)

Alijah Vera-Tucker was a second-team all-Pac-12 selection in 2019 while starting 13 games at left guard. He was slated to return as a starter in 2020, but has decided to opt out and declare for the 2021 NFL draft. The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder played in 25 games in his USC career.

Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon (Sept. 9)

Deommodore Lenoir started 27 consecutive starts at cornerback for Oregon and was a three-year contributor for the Ducks. Over his time in Eugene, he totaled 124 tackles, 26 passes defended and five interceptions. Like his teammate Penei Sewell, Lenoir will begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft instead of waiting to see when the Pac-12 will resume play.

RBs Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard, Syracuse (Sept. 9)

According to multiple reports, the Orange’s top two running backs are opting out of the 2020 season.

Adams, a transfer from Oklahoma, had 336 yards in 2019 while Howard had 337 yards a season ago. Without Howard and Adams, Jawhar Jordon is Syracuse’s leading returning running back. He had 15 carries for 108 yards in 2019.

Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon (Sept. 7)

Penei Sewell, the starting left tackle for Oregon, announced that he will not return to college football and will begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft. The 6-foot-6, 330-pound junior will likely be a first-round selection, and could be the first tackle off the board. Over two seasons and 1,376 snaps at Oregon, Sewell allowed just one sack.

Camryn Bynum, DB, Cal (Sept. 6)

Cam Bynum, a three-year starter at corner for Cal, will not suit up for the Golden Bears whenever the Pac-12 resumes play. Bynum, a fifth-year senior, announced in a Twitter video that he will begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft. Bynum started 38 straight games for Cal over the last three seasons, totaling 169 tackles, 32 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia (Sept. 2)

Jamie Newman will never take a snap at the University of Georgia. The hyped quarterback transfer from Wake Forest announced that he will opt out of the season and begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft. Newman picked UGA as a graduate transfer back in January and was in line to succeed Jake Fromm as the Bulldogs’ starter. UGA later landed JT Daniels from USC, who created a QB competition when granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Newman, though, said his decision was caused by the “uncertainties of this year amid a global pandemic.”

Corey Sutton, WR, Appalachian State (Sept. 1)

Corey Sutton, one of App State’s top offensive players, will sit out the season. Sutton has a combined 85 catches for 1,374 yards and 17 touchdowns over his two seasons with the program. Sutton said he plans to return in 2021.

10 UCF players (Sept. 1)

Josh Heupel told reporters that 10 of his players at UCF have decided not to play in 2020, including defensive lineman Kalia Davis and cornerback Tay Gowan. Darriel Mack Jr., the team’s backup quarterback, is also among the players opting out due to COVID-19 concerns.

Elijah Blades, CB, Texas A&M (Aug. 31)

Elijah Blades, a projected starter for Texas A&M at cornerback, announced that he will not play this season. He did say, however, that he will “be back next year.” Blades started six games in 2019, but struggled with a shoulder injury. Blades signed with A&M out of junior college in the 2019 class.

Tyler Shelvin, DL, LSU (Aug. 31)

Another LSU player won’t suit up for the team this fall. According to multiple reports, mammoth nose tackle Tyler Shelvin has followed Ja’Marr Chase’s footsteps and has opted out. Shelvin was a breakout performer in the middle of LSU’s defense in 2019, compiling 39 tackles and three tackles for loss. He has the talent to be a high-round NFL draft choice in 2021 should he declare. Sports Illustrated first reported the news.

Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis (Aug. 30)

The prolific Memphis running back is opting out. His father told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that Gainwell’s decision was significantly impacted by the four deaths in his family because of COVID-19.

Gainwell had 231 carries for 1,459 yards and 13 scores and also added 51 catches for 610 yards and three scores in the Tigers’ high-powered offense in 2019. He could be one of the first running backs off the board in 2021 in what will be another loaded running back draft class if he chooses to go pro.

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU (Aug. 30)

The Biletnikoff Award winner is the latest LSU departure and the biggest name to opt out of the 2020 season. Chase had 20 TD catches and will likely be the top wide receiver taken in the 2021 NFL draft.

Joe Tryon, LB, Washington (Aug. 29)

The Huskies LB had eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2019 and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection. With the Pac-12 playing a spring season because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tryon is forgoing his eligibility to get a head start on prepping for the draft.

Ambry Thomas, DB, Michigan (Aug. 20)

Like his teammate Jalen Mayfield, Ambry Thomas won’t suit up for Michigan whenever the Big Ten next plays football. Thomas announced that he will forgo his remaining eligibility and begin preparing for the NFL draft. Thomas was a contributor from the moment he arrived at UM. He mainly played special teams his first two seasons, but emerged as a starter at corner in 2019. He finished the year with 38 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions.

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern (Aug. 20)

Rashawn Slater told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that he is opting out of his senior season and declaring for the NFL draft. The 6-foot-4, 308-pound offensive tackle started 37 games over three seasons at Northwestern. He could emerge as one of the top tackles in the 2021 draft.

“I didn’t think a winter or spring season allows for optimal recovery or training to have a great rookie year,” Slater told Yahoo Sports. “I talked about it with everyone. Everyone at Northwestern has been extremely supportive. They’ve had open and honest conversations with me. I can tell they wanted the best for me.”

Jay Tufele, DT, USC (Aug. 19)

USC won’t have Jay Tufele, one of its top defensive players, if the Pac-12 plays in the spring. The redshirt junior defensive tackle said he will forgo his remaining eligibility and begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft. Over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Tufele combined for 65 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Tufele has the potential to be among the top players selected at his position.

Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest (Aug. 19)

Citing the “many uncertainties and risks associated with COVID-19,” Wake Forest receiver Sage Surratt has decided to opt out of the 2020 season and begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft. Over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Surratt has combined for 107 receptions for 1,582 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan (Aug. 18)

If there is spring Big Ten football, Jalen Mayfield won’t be suiting up for Michigan. The redshirt sophomore tackle announced he is forgoing his remaining eligibility and declaring for the 2021 NFL draft. Mayfield emerged as Michigan’s starter at right tackle ahead of the 2019 season as a redshirt freshman.

Jacques Turner, DL, Southern Miss (Aug. 17)

Turner is both opting out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns and also transferring away from Southern Miss. He told the Sun Herald that he plans to graduate and be eligible to play at his new school immediately.

Turner has 15 sacks in three seasons at Southern Miss. He had 13 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2019 as the Eagles went 7-6.

Kary Vincent, DB, LSU (Aug. 17)

A contributor on LSU’s national title-winning defense has opted out. Kary Vincent, a starter in 18 games combined over the past three seasons, says he will begin preparing for the NFL. Vincent was LSU’s starter at nickel corner during the team’s run to the College Football Playoff national title in 2019. He finished the year with 44 tackles and four interceptions, including one in the CFP semifinal win over Oklahoma.

Kennedy Brooks, RB, Oklahoma (Aug. 16)

Oklahoma’s Kennedy Brooks has opted out, according to multiple reports. It is not clear if Brooks will return next season or turn his focus toward the NFL draft. Brooks rushed for 1,011 yards and averaged 6.5 yards a carry as a sophomore last season. Brooks’ absence means OU is replacing its top two running backs from last year after Trey Sermon transferred to Ohio State. Rhamondre Stevenson, who had 505 yards in 2019, moves into the lead back role for the Sooners.

Eli Johnson, C, Ole Miss (Aug. 16)

Eli Johnson, the starting center at Ole Miss, will not play this fall. Johnson, whose father was hospitalized and put on a ventilator earlier this year due to COVID-19, is opting out. Johnson said on Twitter that he will complete his Master’s degree in December.

Warren Jackson, WR, Colorado State (Aug. 16)

Jackson said on Twitter that he was going to prep for the NFL draft as the Mountain West won’t play football this fall. Jackson was one of the more productive wide receivers in college football in 2019. He had 77 catches for 1,119 yards and eight scores as a junior. He ends his Colorado State career with 124 catches for 1,789 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh (Aug. 8)

Jaylen Twyman, one of the top defensive linemen in the ACC, has opted out of the season and declared for the 2021 NFL draft. Twyman was a breakout performer for the Panthers in 2019, accumulating 41 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.

North Carolina DBs DJ Ford, Javon Terry and Bryce Watts (Aug. 7)

Ford was the team’s sixth-leading tackler with 54 stops and one interception.

Josh Jackson, QB, Maryland (Aug. 7)

The Virginia Tech transfer is one of many Maryland players who are opting out of the 2020 season.

Jackson played in 10 games in 2019 in his first year with the Terrapins. He was 98-of-207 passing for 1,274 yards and 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. His best collegiate season came in 2017 when he was Virginia Tech’s starter as a redshirt freshman. He was 236-of-396 for 2,991 yards and 20 TDs and nine interceptions in 13 games that season.

Jordan Reid, OL, Michigan State (Aug. 7)

Reid announced on Twitter that he would sit out 2020, graduate in the spring and then continue his Michigan State football career in 2021.

Chandler Wooten, LB, Auburn (Aug. 6)

Chandler Wooten, a linebacker for Auburn, said he plans to opt out and use his redshirt this season. Wooten cited his son’s expected arrival in November in announcing his decision not to play in 2020. Wooten had 25 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2019 as a junior.

Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue (Aug. 6)

One of the top offensive weapons in the country, Purdue junior Rondale Moore, is moving on. The standout receiver cited the “unprecedented circumstances” of the coronavirus pandemic when announcing his decision to opt out. Moore was limited to just four games due to injuries in 2019. In 2018, though, he was one of the most exciting players in the Big Ten as he compiled 114 catches for 1,258 yards and 12 scores.

Greg Rousseau, DE, Miami (Aug. 6)

Rousseau is off to the NFL and won’t play his redshirt sophomore season with the Hurricanes. Only Chase Young (16.5 sacks) had more sacks than Rousseau (15.5) in 2019. Given the way that NFL teams value edge-rushing talent as passing has exploded in recent years, Rousseau should be an early pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

Jordan Rhodes and Mark Fox, OL, South Carolina (Aug. 5)

When speaking with reporters on Wednesday, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp announced that two of his players — offensive linemen Jordan Rhodes and Mark Fox — have decided to opt out. Rhodes played in all 12 games last season and made 10 starts at left guard. He also appeared in four games as a redshirt freshman in 2018. Fox is a redshirt freshman who did not see the field in 2019, his first season at South Carolina.

Jacub Panasiuk, DL, Michigan State (Aug. 5)

Michigan State defensive lineman Jacub Panasiuk announced that he will redshirt the season and return as a fifth-year senior in 2021. Panasiuk, a two-year starter at defensive end, said he cannot risk his health and safety “in order to play football this season.” He cited the “uncertainty of the effects of COVID-19” in a message posted to Twitter.

Kerry Martin Jr., DB, West Virginia (Aug. 5)

West Virginia safety Kerry Martin Jr. said on social media that he will sit out the season because of health concerns. Martin, a sophomore who was sixth on the team in tackles last season, said he has sickle cell and asthma and that he does not feel it is safe to play.

“I signed my NLI to this university to become a great football player and leave as a better man as well as having a better understanding about life and to pursue my professional dream, not to play during a worldwide pandemic,” Martin wrote.

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State (Aug. 4)

Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm reported Tuesday night that Penn State star Micah Parsons is expected to opt out. A projected first-round pick, Parsons has been a star linebacker for the Nittany Lions for the past two seasons, including earning All-American honors and Big Ten Linebacker of the Year in 2019 as a sophomore. Parsons confirmed his decision on Thursday afternoon.

Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota (Aug. 4)

Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman announced Tuesday morning that he will be leaving the program to begin preparing for the 2021 NFL draft. Bateman cited the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Unfortunately, in light of the uncertainty around health and safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have to set my wishes aside for the wellness of my family, community and beyond,” Bateman said.

Oren Milstein, K, Vanderbilt (Aug. 3)

Vanderbilt kicker Oren Milstein, a graduate transfer from Columbia, said that he was not willing to sacrifice his health to play football. He also said he had concerns about the ethics of playing football in a pandemic.

“Many of our questions and concerns about our health, the ethics of playing college football during a pandemic, and the long term effects of COVID-19 have been left unanswered,” Milstein said in a series of tweets.

Kassidy Woods, WR, Washington State (Aug. 1)

Washington State receiver Kassidy Woods told his head coach, Nick Rolovich, in a phone call that he planned to opt out because of his health concerns. Woods has sickle cell trait. During the call, Woods said he planned on supporting the Pac-12 unity movement, something Rolovich said could be “an issue.” Rolovich later issued a statement saying he “regrets” that his words “cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition.”

Kevin Doyle, QB, Arizona (Aug. 1)

In an Aug. 1 tweet, Kevin Doyle, a backup quarterback at Arizona, announced that he was opting out. Doyle pointed to the many NFL players opting out and the risk associated with playing.

“Dozens of high profile NFL players are opting out of playing football and giving up tens of millions of dollars, there must be more risk than I can even perceive,” Doyle wrote.

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (July 29)

On July 29, Caleb Farley made waves when he announced his decision to opt out and begin preparing for the NFL. A possible first-rounder, the Virginia Tech cornerback announced the news in a heartfelt message, citing the 2018 death of his mother as part of his thought process.

“I am opting out due to uncertain health conditions and regulations and all of the other opt outs going on in football right now,” Farley said. “I tragically lost my mother Robin to an illness and I cannot afford to lose another parent or loved one.”

Ra’Von Bonner, RB, Illinois (July 28)

Ra’Von Bonner, a reserve running back for Illinois, became the first FBS player to publicly announce a decision to opt out. Bonner told The Chicago Tribune that his asthma and the risk of spreading the virus to his loved ones were part of his reasoning.

“Playing football, I feel we’re more at risk with the amount of guys we have,” Bonner told the Tribune. “In football you have to touch someone else. You can spread that to family members. That’s not what I want. I don’t want to not see my family, my sister, my girlfriend.”