The next time the University of Kansas football team takes the field it will do so without one of its captains and most talented players.
Defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. announced Thursday his decision to leave KU a year early and enter the NFL Draft.
A 6-foot-4, 246-pound edge rusher from Houston, Armstrong made his plans to skip his senior year at Kansas public via a note he posted to Twitter.
“First off I want to thank (God) for putting me in position to make this happen. Second, I want to thank Coach (David) Beaty and Coach (Clint) Bowen and the rest of the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to play at the University of Kansas,” Armstrong wrote. “After weeks of praying and consideration with my family, I have decided to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.”
The defensive lineman also thanked KU’s administration, academic support staff and fans, as well as his teammates.
“In the past three years I have took so many great things from the university — the lifelong friendships and unforgettable memories will never be forgotten,” Armstrong added. “I’m excited to start this new journey and I hope and pray that my KU family will continue to support me as I go on to live my dreams.”
He concluded the message with: “Once a Jayhawk always a Jayhawk.”
Armstrong didn’t meet his Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year expectations in 2017, but recorded 63 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered a fumble, broke up four passes and accounted for seven QB hurries in what proved to be his final season at Kansas.
Even so, Scouts Inc.’s NFL Draft rankings at ESPN.com assigned Armstrong a 77 grade and designated him as the 66th-best prospect available, and ninth-best defensive end in the draft.
USA Today’s Draft Wire site lists Armstrong as a possible second-round pick, at No. 46 overall.
A mock draft at WalterFootball.com projects Armstrong as the 64th overall pick (last of the second round) in this year’s draft.
During a breakout sophomore year, in 2016, Armstrong first appeared on the NFL’s radar by producing 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 56 total tackles, five quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and and two fumble recoveries.
KU head coach Beaty, headed into his fourth season with the program, also took to Twitter shortly after Armstrong’s announcement to share his thoughts on the move.
“Incredibly proud of Dorance and how much he has grown as both a player and a man during his time with us. Excited to see what your future holds,” Beaty wrote.
The NFL’s deadline for college underclassmen to apply for special early eligibility is Jan. 15, so Armstrong’s KU teammate, defensive tackle Daniel Wise, has a little more than a week to decide whether he, too, will leave Kansas one year early in order to declare.