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UNC running back Elijah Hood declares for the NFL draft

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After missing UNC’s bowl game and announcing he’d be back in Chapel Hill next year, Elijah Hood is headed to the NFL.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly before the Tar Heels’ appearance in the Sun Bowl last month, junior running back Elijah Hood announced he’d be returning for his senior year at UNC while sitting out the bowl game with an undisclosed injury. Hood deciding to return may have been a bit of a surprise, but not an all-out shock. However, he has now decided to leave for the NFL instead.

In a press release sent out today, Hood states that he believes it is in his best interest to pass up his senior season at Carolina and pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. The North Carolina native finishes his career as a Tar Heel ninth on the all-time list at UNC with 2580 yards and tied for sixth at UNC with 29 rushing touchdowns.

Many of college football’s top running backs are returning to their respective schools for another season. Nick Chubb will be back at Georgia next season, for example. Those guys entering the NFL next season would directly compete against Hood in the draft. It’s possible that Hood feels as though his best opportunity to shine is entering the draft while guys like Chubb are still playing college ball.

Another factor that could have played heavily into Hood’s decision is the way he is used by Larry Fedora. Complaints about Fedora’s play-calling with regards to Hood has been well-documented on this site. If Hood felt like another season at Carolina would have been more of the same as far as his touches in the red zone go, then it’s kind of easy to see why he felt like it wouldn’t do him as much good in the eyes of NFL scouts to play a senior season in Kenan Stadium.

The Tar Heels are also expected to experience a bit of a rebuilding year in 2017. This year’s team was so full of senior talent, and guys like Nazair Jones declaring early for the NFL draft just depletes what will be left for next season even further. This becomes even more apparent if quarterback Mitch Trubisky declares for the NFL like many expect him to do. Hood would have been sort of left on an island on a team that won’t be expected to be as good as it has been the last two seasons. That may have weighed heavily in his decision to leave.

It’s a shame that Hood wasn’t able to stay healthy all season, and it’s a shame that his coach chose to use him so poorly in so many situations. Those factors really limited how good Hood was able to be on the field. Wanting to come back healthy and play a full season was likely the driving force behind Hood’s initial decision to return, but weighing all of his options obviously led him to conclude that wasn’t actually in his future’s best interest.

There can really be no faulting a guy for taking the money that comes with the NFL over playing another season of college football while risking injuries that could end up costing him millions down the line. Hood believes that the best thing for him is to declare for the NFL now instead of finishing out his time at Carolina, and we certainly wish him the best on Sundays going forward. He’ll definitely be missed in Chapel Hill.