Sean Smith became the second underclassman on second-ranked Utah's Sugar Bowl championship team to leave the Utes for the National Football League.

Smith, a 6-foot-3, 214-pound junior cornerback who led Utah with five interceptions this season, follows sophomore defensive end Paul Kruger in opting to give up their remaining collegiate eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.

Both players, who were first-team, all-conference honorees, are now at Perfect Competition training center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they are preparing for next month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"We appreciate Paul and Sean's hard work and dedication to the University of Utah football program," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement. "They have been instrumental to our success and, although we are sorry to see them leave, we wish them nothing but the best in their NFL endeavors. They will always be a part of the Utah football family."

Kruger and Smith were among three Utah underclassmen who asked the NFL for draft evaluations. Kruger discussed his decision to turn pro in a prepared announcement Sunday night.

"This past year I have been honored to be a part of this very special group of teammates and coaches at the University of Utah. I have cherished what has been my amazing college experience," Kruger said. "Finishing this 2008 football season undefeated and having the privilege to get to play under someone as special as coach Kyle Whittingham has been a lifelong dream fulfilled. Now it is my journey to pursue another lifelong dream, which is to become a professional football player in the National Football League."

Before Kruger and Smith made their intentions known, offensive lineman Zane Beadles announced that he would return to Utah.

"I'm sticking around," Beadles said Friday night.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound left tackle was pleased with his evaluation from the NFL, but wanted to come back for his senior season and earn his degree.

"I just kind of wanted to get a feel for where I'm at," Beadles said. "Get my name out there and see where I can move up to."

The deadline for underclassmen to renounce their remaining college eligibility and enter the draft is Thursday. The 2009 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 25-26 in New York City.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com