ORLANDO, FL - OCTOBER 26: Yawin Smallwood #33 of the Connecticut Huskies watches the action during the game against the UCF Knights at Bright House Networks Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
A year ago, the Huskies had five players on its roster bound to be NFL draft picks. Another two ended up signing as undrafted free agents, and as it stands, Sio Moore (Raiders), Dwayne Gratz (Jaguars) and Ryan Griffin (Texans) have all made sizable contributions to their respective teams this season.
But the Huskies, just 2-9 and stumbling through one of their most forgettable efforts in recent years, don't have much to celebrate -- either now or when it comes to sending players to the next level. Except for linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who you could argue was the team's best defender a year ago, when UConn had the Big East's best defense. Now a junior, Smallwood began the season on various player-of-the-year watch lists and with one game left on the schedule it's fair to wonder if he'll leave Storrs for the bright lights and big money of the NFL.
"The past couple of weeks I've been talking it over with my mom and family members," Smallwood said. "I'm just going to do whatever is right for me. I've enjoyed my time here. I think I've played well. You know, it's been a dream of mine to play in the NFL but it's a huge step. I've just got to make sure it's the right time for me and I'm prepared to make that jump. ...
“It could be (my last game) … it could not be,” Smallwood continued. “I’m just going to keep doing what I do every single game and that’s prepare and play my best football game. I’m just going to prepare the same way I always do, work hard, focus on the little things, and go out there and have fun with all my teammates, have fun with the seniors out here and try to get a win. ...
“I always go out there and look around. I look at the fans and the support that we get," he continued. "Like I said before, I’m just going to prepare the same way I do each week, just going to go out there and play like I’m playing in the Fiesta Bowl, give everything I got and play as hard as I can.”
Smallwood has 111 tackles on the season (7.5 tackles for loss), two sacks and an interception. If he were to forego his senior season, it's unclear at this point where he might be drafted. Last offseason, Moore had impressive showing at the Senior Bowl, the combine and individual workouts and ended up being a third-round pick.