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Former Tennessee receiver Marquez North, shown here last September against Western Carolina, was among several SEC football players who bypassed college eligibility but went undrafted. SEC football coaches would like their players to have more opportunities like basketball players to return to school.

There were seven Southeastern Conference football players who bypassed their collegiate eligibility in January and became first-round NFL draft selections in late April.

Those players are in the process of becoming instant millionaires, but what about others who left early and went undrafted? SEC football coaches would love for their players to have the longer windows enjoyed by basketball counterparts such as Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe, who recently returned to school after testing the professional waters.

"I do think it's alarming how many underclassmen are coming out and not getting drafted," Georgia first-year coach Kirby Smart told reporters Tuesday as the SEC spring meetings kicked off in Destin, Fla. "Is it because they get bad information? I don't know."

While former Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, former Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil and former Florida safety Keanu Neal are figuring into the plans of their teams, former Arkansas guard Denver Kirkland, Mississippi State linebacker Beniquez Brown and Tennessee receiver Marquez North have nothing guaranteed as free agents. Of the 25 underclassmen from the SEC who were not selected during the 2010 to 2015 drafts, 16 never played a professional snap.

Auburn had two 2015 players, running back Peyton Barber and offensive tackle Avery Young, leave early yet not be selected. Barber rushed for 1,017 yards as a redshirt sophomore last season for Gus Malzahn's Tigers, but he bypassed his final two years despite being outgained 619 to 247 in the last six games by teammate Jovon Robinson.

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"This is the first thing Gus and I have agreed on since I've been here," Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. "It makes too much sense to not have it happen."

Bielema would like for an underclassman to be evaluated after the NFL combine or his school's pro day before having to make a decision. Under the current timetable, there is no turning back after mid-January.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones said he encourages players to avoid people who try to pump up their draft stock. The Volunteers had running back Alvin Kamara, cornerback Cam Sutton and linebacker Jalen-Reeves Maybin elect to return to school after last season but lost North, who had just six receptions during his injury-riddled junior season.

"We try to talk to our players about there being a difference between playing in the NFL and having a career in the NFL," Jones said.

The obvious challenge in adding a lengthier window for underclassmen to return to school would be on the academic front, because those who declare in January spend nearly every waking hour preparing for the draft and little to no time in school.

"We're giving them pretty good information," South Carolina first-year coach Will Muschamp said. "Some don't like school. Let's be real."

Satellite slap

Alabama coach Nick Saban again voiced his disdain for satellite camps Tuesday, raising his voice throughout his latest rant.

"Why should we be promoting somebody else's camp anywhere?" Saban said. "We are the one sport where the high school coach still matters. All we're doing is allowing all these people that we spend our time at the NCAA saying you can't recruit through a third party, and now that's exactly what we're doing."

Saban added that he wasn't attacking Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, whose Wolverines are scheduled to have representatives at more than 35 satellite camps, including ones in Australia and American Samoa. Yet Harbaugh made Saban the target of his latest Twitter attack Tuesday night when he referenced the recent resignation of Crimson Tide defensive line coach Bo Davis due to reported recruiting violations.

"Amazing to me," Harbaugh posted. "Alabama broke NCAA rules, and now their HC is lecturing us on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Truly amazing."

East Division respect

Tennessee's Jones believes Georgia is one of the best teams not just in the SEC East but in the entire league and beyond. Jones expressed that Tuesday in a news conference, but Smart was quick to downplay that praise before then praising the Vols.

"Since Butch came to none of our spring practices, I don't know how he would be able to say that," Smart said. "I do have a lot of respect for the way they play at Tennessee. They have a really good program, and they do a good job of making their kids play hard.

"Last year at Alabama, I thought that was probably the most physical team we played. They came out and really played hard, so I have a lot of respect for what they do. As far as his consideration of us, that's his opinion."

Verne stepping aside

Verne Lundquist, the primary CBS play-by-play announcer for SEC football games since the 2000 season, will relinquish that role after the upcoming season and will be replaced by Brad Nessler. Lundquist's retirement from SEC telecasts had been speculated for several weeks, with CBS confirming it Tuesday.

Lundquist, who has been in television for 53 years, will continue to call college basketball and golf. Nessler will call the secondary CBS game this season on the two weekends the network has an SEC doubleheader telecast.

Gary Danielson, a former quarterback of the Detroit Lions, is continuing for the foreseeable future as the CBS lead color analyst.

Odds and ends

South Carolina senior linebacker Skai Moore, who led the Gamecocks with 111 tackles last season, will not play this year due to a herniated disk in his neck but expects to return to the program in 2017, according to Muschamp. Malzahn said Auburn junior tailback Roc Thomas, a former five-star recruit, has been granted a release from the program. Florida sophomore receiver Antonio Calloway, who led the Gators last season with 678 yards but was suspended this spring, is not enrolled for summer classes, according to coach Jim McElwain. Georgia's Jonathan Ledbetter recently had misdemeanor alcohol charges dropped, and Smart is not saying whether the sophomore defensive end will miss the opener against North Carolina. Bielema proposed the idea of an SEC/ACC or SEC/Big Ten challenge for football, but league commissioner Greg Sankey quickly shot down that notion by saying, "We generally call those bowl games."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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