Alabama Could Be Reloading Instead of Rebuilding
Cary L. Clark
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – What you are about to read may surprise you, and if you’re an Alabama supporter, surprise you pleasantly.
Sources say a larger number of draft-eligible juniors on the Crimson Tide team may elect to return to school than has been widely reported. As of today – Monday, December 9, 2019 – here is what I am hearing:
Those juniors who are planning to leave for the NFL 100 per cent include wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, running back Najee Harris and offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. That’s a MUCH shorter list than has been discussed.
A junior who is roughly 50/50 on staying/going is safety Xavier McKinney. When the dust clears, it won’t be a surprise if he departs. The only thing keeping him in play is the money McKinney could lose by not being a top 15 pick. More on that later.
There are a LOT of names not mentioned yet who seem at this point to be leaning toward staying. Among those I’m hearing are least 75 per cent certain to remain on the Crimson Tide roster are quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and linebacker Dylan Moses.
That last paragraph may seem like a too good to be true fantasy – and perhaps it is in part – but Nick Saban is emphasizing to his underclassmen, as evidenced by recent remarks by Tagovailoa, how important it is to not just be a first-round pick but to be in the top 15 players chosen when the NFL Draft takes place April 23, 2020 in Paradise, Nevada.
When asked about the possibility of players leaving early and sitting out the Citrus Bowl against Michigan, Nick Saban said on Sunday:
“I’m sure that guys are going to make individual decisions based on their circumstance and their situation, and what we want to focus on is the guys who want to look to the future and look to trying to improve themselves as players and improve our team in getting back to the standard that we want to play to. This has been something that has been a bit of an issue in the past with other programs and other teams. We haven’t experienced it for a while, but we’ll see what happens with this group.”
Saban added: "We will have those conversations, and we’ll let you know if any of those decisions are imminent to the players that we have on our team.”
The situation remains fluid, and a lot could change, but there is strong evidence that much of it may not and that Alabama’s 2020 team may be much deeper and experienced than initially thought.
We're also hearing that linebacker Joshua McMillon (knee) is in very good shape to have a sixth year of eligibility added by the NCAA, though that is not yet official.
As more information comes in, we'll provide further. Please feel free to comment on this story with your own information, thoughts and opinions.
UPDATE: BamaCentral is hearing conflicting information on Terrell Lewis, who did participate in Alabama's Senior Day ceremony. A source close to the situation says he's not likely to return to the Crimson Tide, and will instead enter the 2020 NFL Draft.