Georgia Tech

UPDATED: Tarrant Adds to List of Early NFL Departures

Add Jerrard Tarrant to the list of the departed.

In a phone conversation with The Telegraph on Thursday night, the Georgia Tech safety confirmed that he was planning to leave the Yellow Jackets this offseason, with hopes of being selected in the NFL draft. He is the second player in two days to leave the program, joining offensive tackle Nick Claytor, who announced his decision late Wednesday.

"Sometimes, it's time to move on," the soft-spoken Tarrant said.

Claytor's announcement had nothing to do with his own, Tarrant said.

Earlier this week, Tarrant learned, from a packet sent back to him from the NFL, that he was slated to be a fourth-round or later draft selection. Claytor was told he would be a likely fifth- to seventh-round selection.

A quick, fleet-footed junior defensive back, Tarrant had three of Georgia Tech's eight interceptions this past season, including one that resulted in a touchdown off North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson.

He also made a name for himself last year, hauling away one of the Yellow Jackets' only two scores in the Orange Bowl loss to Iowa. En route to the 24-14 finish, Tarrant took back an interception for a touchdown. In the first two games of that season, he also scored, when as a punt returner, he torched Jacksonville State's and Clemson's punt team units for a pair of electric romps to the end zone.

Tarrant said he enjoyed his time at Georgia Tech and will miss the school, his teammates and the program dearly.

"It was very fun -- challenging," he said, "but hey, we won the ACC."

The Yellow Jackets won the 2009 ACC title, giving them the Orange Bowl berth.

Tarrant's time on the Flats wasn't without drama.

The summer before his redshirt freshman season, he was charged with rape from an incident stemming from an on-campus party. Then-incoming head coach Paul Johnson suspended him indefinitely. With the legal process sorting itself out, his suspension lasted the entire 2008 season.

Months later, before the following year's spring practice, he was cleared of the charges and returned to the program. From there, he did all of his talking on the field, becoming an instant fan favorite for his knack of scoring off interceptions and returning successful punt returns.

Punt returns were a problem for him in 2010, as he battled poor blocking and inconsistent chances at returns. He was held to about six yards per attempt.

In last month's Independence Bowl, his presence was missed on the punt return team, when he suffered a hip injury in the second half. With him out for the remainder of the game, a backup took his place. The reserve had just one previous return.

That backup went on to muff a pair of third-quarter punts that resulted in recovered fumbles for Air Force. The Falcons even scored following one of them.

Tarrant said his decision to turn pro was a family decision, with members of his family supporting him every step of the process. Like Claytor, the process began after he returned to the Atlanta area following the bowl, he said.

He said he sent his materials off to the NFL late and didn't get a full evaluation as a result. The information he was given, however, was enough to know that he was ready to make this decision.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, just as Claytor was finishing an interview session with a group of reporters, Tarrant was spotted inside Georgia Tech's Edge Center. He later told The Telegraph that he was actually heading up to Johnson's office at that time, set to inform the coach of his decision.

"He was just giving me a whole breakdown of what to expect and he had a lot of information as far as what I was about to see," Tarrant said.

The defensive back -- who said his evaluation was specifically based on his work as a safety this season (he also played cornerback last season and was not evaluated as a punt returner) -- remains several classes shy of graduating. That won't deter him from returning to get his degree at some future time, he said.

A year ago this week, like Claytor and Tarrant, four other Yellow Jackets decided to enter the draft one season before the end of their eligibility. All were taken within the first six rounds, with two going in the first round.

It is possible more Georgia Tech juniors this weekend could announce plans to go pro.

At least two other players submitted paperwork to the NFL to explore their professional options. They have until Saturday to withdraw their names from the draft process, or to keep with it and join Claytor and Tarrant.

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