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by: COURTESY OF DENNIS WOLVERTON - Brandin Cooks of Oregon State will weigh his NFL draft status.CORVALLIS — Scott Crichton said Monday one of the goals for Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl against Boise State on Dec. 24 is to “send the seniors out as winners.”

But what about the juniors?

Specifically, juniors such as Crichton and Brandin Cooks, who project to be taken in the NFL draft next May if they decide to forego their senior season of college?

Both players were noncommittal when I asked about their future plans.

“I don’t know yet,” said Crichton, the 6-3, 265-pound defensive end who was all-Pac-12 as a sophomore and second-team all-conference this season. “I really don’t know.”

Cooks has already filed his application to the NFL College Advisory Committee, overseen by the league’s player personnel department and comprised of general managers and personnel directors, for an evaluation of his draft chances.

“I got it in pretty early, so I should know within the next week or so,” said the 5-10, 185-pound Cooks, who last week won the Biletnikoff Trophy as the nation’s premier receiver.

Crichton wouldn’t comment on whether he has filed an application or intends to.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he reiterated. “Right now, I’m focused on playing this game with my teammates, and we’ll see from there.”

Cooks said he will take the advisory committee’s findings into consideration, then make a decision before the Jan. 15 deadline.

“Once that time comes where I have to ultimately make that decision, that will be between my family and the coaches,” he said. “Once my decision is made, everybody will know through a press conference.”

In what round Cooks and Crichton might go is unclear. In one mock draft, which covers the first three rounds, Crichton was projected to go in the middle of the second round and Cooks is not mentioned. In another mock draft, which goes through four rounds, Cooks is projected to be taken early in the third round, Crichton nowhere at all. The draft has seven rounds.

One NFL scout, who asked to remain anonymous, said Cooks has a better grade from his club’s scouting department than did ex-Beaver Markus Wheaton, who went in the third round to Pittsburgh last season. Wheaton has played sparingly this season, catching six passes for 64 yards, returning two kickoffs for 37 yards and making seven special-teams tackles.

“I was a little surprised Wheaton went as high as he did and hasn’t had more time on the field,” the scout said. “That’s kind of where Cooks is. He can’t do a whole lot more (as a college senior) than he did this season, but it’s different for a receiver than a running back like (Jacquizz) Rodgers. With all the wear and tear of a running back, he was probably smart to come out (after his junior year).”

The scout said there would be other factors involved, including Cooks working more on his body and on his route-running.

Crichton, the scout said, “is more of a mid- to-low-round guy right now. He would probably be better served to stay in school and have a great senior year.”

If both Cooks and Crichton return, the Beavers project to return 19 starters from this year’s team, including kicker Trevor Romaine and punter Keith Kostol.

Cooks’ best friend on the Oregon State team is running back Storm Woods, whom I asked Monday if he thought the Hawaii Bowl would be Cooks’ last game as a Beaver.

“We don’t talk about it,” Woods said. “If it is, I’m proud of the guy. He deserves it. He’s one of the most hard-working, humble guys I know. If not, great. We get to have him back again next year. Whatever’s best for him is what he’s going to do, no matter what I say.”

Riley said he hasn’t spoken with either Cooks or Crichton about next season.

“One day we will,” the OSU coach said.

If he decides to return, Cooks could take out an insurance policy, protecting him financially in the event of injury next season. Riley has some experience with that. When he was offensive coordinator at Southern Cal, receiver Keyshawn Johnson was considering leaving after his junior season in 1994 and consulted the NFL College Advisory Committee.

“They told him he’d be the 15th pick in the draft,” Riley said. “He bought an insurance policy, came back and was the first pick” in the 1996 draft.

After earning consensus All-America honors as a senior in 1995, Johnson enjoyed an 11-year NFL career, making the Pro Bowl three times and helping Tampa Bay win the 2003 Super Bowl.

Nobody within or around the Oregon State program seems to know which way Cooks is leaning. He already has set the Pac-12 single-season receptions record with 120 and has 208 career catches, needing 10 more against Boise State to pass Wheaton for the school mark.

If Cooks were to return next season, he would be in line to break the Pac-12 career receptions record held by Arizona’s Mike Thomas (259 from 2005-08). The FBS record is 349 by Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles (2008-11).

Cooks needs 52 yards to break the conference receiving yardage mark of 1,721 set by USC’s Marqise Lee last season. Cooks’ career receiving yardage stands at 3,212, which ranks ninth on the Pac-12 list. The conference record is 4,047 by Stanford’s Troy Walters (1996-99). The FBS mark is 5,005 by Nevada’s Trevor Insley (1996-99).

Whether any of that is important to Cooks remains to be seen. I’d guess if the NFL committee tells him he is likely to go in the first two rounds, the Hawaii Bowl will be his swan song as a Beaver. Sometime in the next month, we’ll know for sure.

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