3 Clemson football players to stay, 3 undecided

Three Clemson juniors who asked the NFL to gauge their draft stock confirmed Wednesday that they would return for their senior seasons, but the fate of three teammates who did the same thing remains uncertain.

Safety Michael Hamlin, quarterback Cullen Harper and defensive tackle Dorell Scott all told Clemson coach Tommy Bowden that they will return in 2008, Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret confirmed.

However, defensive end Phillip Merling, tailback James Davis and wide receiver Aaron Kelly remain undecided. None of the three were at a team meeting Tuesday, although the meeting wasn’t mandatory. Clemson begins second-semester classes today. The deadline for juniors to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15.

Merling appears the most likely of the three to declare for the draft. He met with Bowden Monday, and Bourret said that Bowden told him the result of the meeting was “open-ended.” He has been projected as a second-round pick, but could rise further with a strong performance at the NFL draft combine.

He could also improve his stock with a strong senior season. Merling had 78 tackles, seven sacks and 17 tackles for loss as a junior.

Davis is projected as a third-round pick; he told reporters in December that if he was projected as a third-round pick, he would likely return to Clemson. He said after Clemson’s Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Auburn that he was “leaning toward” staying for his senior season.

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