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Andrew Luck 2011 NFL Draft Watch: Jim Harbaugh Believes Luck Will Return To Stanford

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There aren’t many reliable sources in the football world, but the following two guys get generally get good information. First, Todd McShay has said he’s heard from plenty of people close to the situation that Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck would like to return to Palo Alto and finish his junior season before declaring for the 2011 NFL Draft.

However, Peter King did McShay one better. He got Luck’s head coach to admit that his pupil was leaning toward one more year.

I said to Harbaugh Sunday that I’d heard the Luck family (his dad, Oliver Luck, is a former NFL quarterback) was concerned with the fact that drafted players, because of the prospect of a protracted work stoppage, might not even see their playbook or start practice ‘til Labor Day — or later. If that’s the case, why wouldn’t Luck stay for his fourth year at Stanford and play, whether Harbaugh (who is rumored to be a candidate for both pro and college head-coaching jobs after turning around the Cardinal) is there to coach him or not?

“I don’t think that’s the correct logic,‘’ Harbaugh told me from his home in northern California. "But I do think it’s more likely he’d come back. If I had to bet one way or the other, I’d bet he’s coming back. He loves college. He loves the college life. He’s such a good kid — and so smart. He’s got a 3.5 GPA in Architectural Engineering, and all along his plan has been to go to college for four years, get his degree, then figure out what to do with his life. This is a kid who has a plan. And he’s a kid who’s not the big-man-on-campus type. He just fits in.’’

Now, in a normal year, it wouldn’t make much sense for Luck to come back—he’s the de facto number one pick, and you should NEVER pass up on that opportunity to get a degree in anything—the door will always be open for Luck to return and complete his degree. The door isn’t always open on a starting NFL position, which he is almost assured of earning from day one the moment he’s drafted. The potential work stoppage and possible reduction of the rookie salary scale does throw a wrench into that conventional line of thinking.

On the other hand, Luck returning to Stanford would have its benefits. The Cardinal would immediately vault to the top of the national radar and be considered legitimate BCS title contenders, regardless of whether Harbaugh returned or not. He would likely be the best quarterback in the country—at the moment he’s well above the talent and intelligence level of junior guys like Ryan Mallett of Arkansas, Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, Nick Foles of Arizona. Even though it might not be the smartest financial decision, a gamer like Luck might recognize the benefits of spending one more year in the college ranks, It certainly sounds better than getting turned loose on a team like the Carolina Panthers, who are probably a ways from contending for anything.

Who knows what factors will eventually figure into Luck’s decision, but don’t expect it to be anything conventional.