The Alabama Crimson Tide will be without three of its best players for the 2011 season as Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, and Marcell Dareus declared for the NFL Draft at a press conference on Friday afternoon.
It was widely reported over the last few days that Ingram and Dareus would announce their intentions of declaring for the 2011 draft at the Friday press conference and that it was likely that Julio Jones would do the same. All three of these players are juniors and would have made huge impacts on next year’s team if they decided to return to school.
You can’t blame any of them. They all received first round grades from the NFL’s Draft Advisory Committee and all the draft experts are projecting each to be first round choices in April.
”I’m fully endorsing each of these guys in terms of the decisions they’ve made,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
At the same press conference, Dont’a Hightower announced his intention of returning to Tuscaloosa next season. Hightower’s decision is a wide choice and he likely didn’t receive a very high grade from the committee and that is what swung his decision toward returning for what would be his junior season on the football field.
Nick Saban said, “We still have guys who are making decisions.” The guys that Nick Saban is referring too are DB Mark Barron and WR Marquis Maze. They have until January 15th to announce their intentions.
Mark Barron’s torn pectoral muscle could sway him into returning for his senior season at the Capstone and I don’t see any reason why Marquis Maze would declare early for the draft. With Julio Jones headed to the NFL, Maze is likely to play an even bigger role with the Alabama offense in 2011 with a great shot at boosting his draft stock.
It would be an awful decision on Maze’s part if he decided to forgo his senior season in Tuscaloosa. He’s not likely to be a very high draft pick, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time someone has made a decision like that.
The three guys that are leaving will not be easily replaced. Obviously, with Mark Ingram departing, Trent Richardson will get his chance to shine as the feature back for Alabama next season along with guys like Eddie Lacy and Demetrius Goode seeing increased playing time. Also, the Tide is looking at a number of running backs in the 2011 recruiting class like Demetrius Hart and Isaiah Crowell.
Hart was said to already be committed to Alabama according to teammate and ‘Bama commit HaSean Clinton-Dix.
Mark Ingram will leave Alabama as one of the top running backs in the history of the team and that’s saying something. Ingram will leave Tuscaloosa in 4th place on the all-time rushing list at 3,261 yards and if he had decided to return for his senior season, then he would have almost certainly broke Shaun Alexander’s school rushing record.
But, Ingram’s decision comes as a surprise to nobody due to the short life of an NFL RB. Ingram became the first Alabama player in history to win the Heisman Trophy when he took home college football’s most prestigious individual award in 2009. Ingram was a part of the highly touted 2008 recruiting class that played a huge role in Alabama’s National Championship last season.
Marcell Dareus’ decision to turn pro also comes as a surprise to nobody. Dareus’ draft stock is sky-high right now and he showed his immense potential in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State. Dareus is considered a top-10 pick by the draft experts.
Dareus was another member of the 2008 recruiting class and was the defensive MVP of the National Championship win over Texas last season.
Julio Jones declaring for the NFL Draft also didn’t come as a real surprise. I had been holding on to the slim hope of Julio deciding to return to Tuscaloosa due to the lure of rewriting the Alabama receiving record book.
If Julio had returned for his senior season, he would have broken all of Alabama’s career records for receiving. He could have also improved his draft stock somewhat. If he had a big 2011, then he could have vaulted up to the #1 receiver in the 2012 draft instead of the #2 receiver in the 2011 draft behind Georgia WR AJ Green.
Still, Julio is likely to get picked in the middle of the first round and you can’t fault his decision.
Julio was Alabama’s top recruit in 2008 and he came right in and was Alabama’s most lethal weapon in the passing game. It all started in the Georgia Dome against Clemson back in 2008 and ended in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Julio was one of my favorite players to ever wear the Alabama uniform and he along with Ingram and Dareus will be sorely missed. Julio is probably the biggest loss though, because with his departure, the Crimson Tide really doesn’t have anyone that can come in and replace him.
He’s a once in a lifetime player and his physical ability along with his effort and downfield blocking ability cannot be replicated by anyone. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks are solid receivers, but neither are anywhere near the level Julio is on. The screams of “HOOOOOOLIO” will be supremely missed on Saturday’s during college football season.
SEC defensive backs are breathing a sigh of relief that Julio decided to enter the draft.
Even with the losses of these three guys, Alabama will still bring back a bevy of talented players in 2011 and should be right in the thick of the National Title race.
We have to sit back and wait for Mark Barron and Marquis Maze’s decisions about turning pro and hope both of them decide to follow Dont’a Hightower and return to Tuscaloosa for the 2011 season.
Roll Tide Roll.