UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers said he will skip his senior season and make himself available for the NFL draft.
Ayers, projected as a first-round pick in several mock drafts, created big plays during the last two seasons as a starter. His speed and size (6 feet 4, 255 pounds) are ideal for an outside linebacker in the NFL.
Ayers earned second-team All-American honors from the Walter Camp Foundation in 2010. Even while slowed by shoulder and toe injuries, he still made two interceptions, four sacks and 10 tackles for losses.
"I have had a great experience at UCLA and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend such an outstanding school," Ayers said in a statement released by the school. "I will miss playing with my UCLA teammates next year, but I feel that the decision to go to the NFL is what is best for my family."
Ayers has until Jan. 18 to change his mind and withdraw from the draft. As long as he has not signed with an agent, he would then retain his college eligibility.
Ayers caught the eye of scouts a year ago when he had six sacks and four interceptions as a sophomore. He scored three touchdowns that season — two on interceptions and one on a fumble return.
"Akeem has been a big-play performer throughout his career at UCLA and we support his decision to move to the next level," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Who will ever forget his interceptions against Oregon and Temple that he turned into touchdowns, or his many sacks?
"We will miss Akeem, but we look forward to watching him make those same types of plays on Sundays in the NFL."