HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Mississippi football team knew it was going to lose its top offensive weapon with the departure of senior running back Ito Smith.
Tuesday, the Golden Eagles found out they also will have to replace its top receiver.
Redshirt junior Korey Robertson, who posted one of the best receiving seasons by a Golden Eagle this past fall, will forego his senior season to enter April's 2018 National Football League Draft.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Robertson, a native of Greenwood, in 2017 became just the sixth USM player to record a 1,000-yard receiving season. A first-team All-Conference USA selection, Robertson finished with 76 catches for 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The catches ranks second on USM's single-season chart, the touchdowns tied for third and the yardage fifth.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted that Robertson is projected as high as a second- or third-round selection in the upcoming draft.
Robertson became the first Golden Eagle underclassman to come out early for the NFL draft since former defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches declared after his red-shirt junior season in 2014 and was taken in the sixth round by the Kansas City Chiefs the following spring.
With Robertson's departure, USM will lose its top three pass catchers, including senior Allenzae Staggers (44 catches, 471 yards, five touchdowns) and Smith (40 catches, 396 yards, two touchdowns). Also leaving are senior receiver Isaiah Jones (22 catches, 191 yards) and senior tight end Julian Allen (three catches, 17 yards).
Redshirt freshman Quez Watkins will return as USM's top receiver after grabbing 23 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns. Other top returning receivers include true freshmen Jaylond Adams (eight catches, 119 yards, one touchdown), Tim Jones (five catches, 121 yards, one touchdown) and junior tight end Jay-Shawn Allen (six catches, 72 yards, one touchdown).
USM signed a pair of junior college transfers in December, DeMichael Harris of Hinds Community College and Neil McLaurin of Southwest Mississippi Community College, who were expected to contribute immediately.