Updated: 5:46 PM Monday
Tuscaloosa, AL– What a time to be alive as Alabama Football has just come up short in its conquests to obtain its 6th National Championship in just 10 years. Clemson started off strong by picking off first year Alabama starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and returning it to the end-zone to go up early 7-0 and the Tigers would not look back as they finished the Crimson Tide 44-16.
Nearly two weeks later, Alabama has just about finished up the process of seeing who will declare for the 2019 NFL Draft, and who will return. As of right now the following players have either declared for the draft or graduated:
*-indicates nothing official
OL-Jonah Williams- (Early,Draft) Projected 1st Round
OL-Ross Pierschbacher- (Draft/Graduation) Projected 3rd-5th Round
OL-Lester Cotton- (Draft/Graduation) Projected 5th-7th Round
RB-Damien Harris- (Draft/Graduation) Projected 1st-3rd Round
RB-Josh Jacobs- (Early/Draft) Projected 1st-3rd Round
TE-Hale Hentges- (Graduation) (Projected Free Agent if he decides to enter draft)
TE-Irv Smith Jr.- (Early,Draft) Projected 1st-3rd Round
DL-Quinnen Williams- (Early,Draft) Projected Top 5 1st Round
DL-Isaiah Buggs- (Graduation,Draft) Projected 3rd-4th Round
LB-Christian Miller- (Graduation,Draft) Projected 3rd-4th Round
LB-Lyndell “Mack” Wilson- (Early,Draft) Projected 2nd-3rd Round
DB-Saivion Smith- (Early,Draft) Projected 3rd-5th Round
DB-Deionte Thompson- (Early,Draft) Projected 1st-2nd Round
QB-Jalen Hurts* (Possible Transfer) OU, Miami, Maryland as possible destinations
With nearly 12 players projected to leave Alabama in one way or another, the Tide have quite a bit to replace next year. Let’s take a look and see who needs to step up, and who will possibly see a leadership role, as well as increased playing time.
Jonah Williams-Replacing a 4-time All American in Jonah Williams will be tough, but with 5-star true freshman Evan Neal coming in, Alabama could take a little heat off replacing 3 starters on that offensive front.
Ross Pierschbacher– Ross come into Alabama expecting to play tackle or guard, but ended up the Alabama center that nobody saw coming. With that being said, we could see a variety of players trying out to replace him at center, including Chris Owens and Emil Ekiyor.
Lester Cotton- Cotton came into Alabama highly touted out of Central High School in Tuscaloosa, and ended up filling in as a starter for Deonte Brown as he has been suspended. Cotton did a decent job, but it was clear to see that Brown was missed. Saban has yet to say how long Brown and company will be suspended, so maybe someone like true freshman Pierce Quick could come in and pick up the slack until Brown returns.
Damien Harris- With one of the best running backs to come through Alabama graduating and hitting the upcoming NFL Draft, Harris is likely to be replaced by backs Najee Harris, Brian Robinson and incoming 5-star running back Trey Sanders. Nothing to worry about here.
Josh Jacobs- One of my favorite college football players of all time– Jacobs is the best overall back available in this upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. As far as replacing him, the same backs Najee Harris, Brian Robinson will do the same damage this year as Jacobs did.
Hale Hentges– Hale Hentges career did not necessarily go as planned as he only had 15 receptions for 124 yards while at Alabama, but was definitely essential as a blocker. As far as blocking goes, look for Miller Forristall to play an important role.
Irv Smith Jr.- Irv Smith was arguably one of the most improved players for Alabama, as he came into Alabama as just a normal rated TE prospect, and is now a projected 1st-2nd round pick thanks to his hands, mismatch speed, and overall sense of the game. Major Tennison and Kendrick James will likely fight to replace Smith this upcoming season, although James is currently suspended.
Quinnen Williams- Another dark-horse player who stated his didnt even know if he would start this year, now sees himself as a potential Top 5 pick in this years upcoming NFL Draft. Although replacing him won’t be easy, there is nobody else that could replace him as easily as Alabama could. With Raekwon Davis announcing his return, Phidiarian Mathis on the roster, and LaBryan Ray ready to break out, the Crimson Tide should be fine as like as they combine their work.
Isaiah Buggs- After committing to Alabama right after finishing junior college, Buggs was a known name. With the excitement and athleticism he showed, Buggs did not really break out until this year in terms of sacks and tackles for a loss as he posted 4 TFL and 1.5 Sacks in 2017, while improving in 2018 to hand out 13.5 TFL and 9 sacks. Replacing Buggs will be easier than Williams, but still not a walk in the park. Look for the same trio of Davis, Mathis, Ray, and company to contribute.
Christian Miller- One of the most impressive recruits coming out of high school seemed to battle the injury bug time after time and could not seem to catch a break. Still, Miller was a ferocious pass rusher when he did play and will enter the NFL Draft this year. The combination of will be sophomore Eyabi Anaoma and Markail Benton will have to catch up and bring the pass rush that Miller was expected to.
Lyndell “Mack” Wilson- The next Reuben Foster is what they labeled Mack Wilson when he came to Alabama, and that seemed true after a massive hit on special teams as Foster knocked Texas A&M kicker returner and wide receiver to the ground. Wilson never really lived up the expected hype, but was still an impressive and important linebacker for the Crimson Tide. Dylan Moses will be the name to focus on next season as the mike linebacker position, as Alabama has to once again replace a huge gap in the defense.
Saivion Smith- The juco product who originally played at LSU came to Alabama with the hope to start for Alabama, and once Trevon Diggs went down with injury, his wish came true. Smith played a big role in Alabama’s path to a birth in the College Football Playoff, and will surely be replaced by Trevon Diggs as long as he stays healthy.
Deionte Thompson- After serving as a backup role player for his first few years, Thompson really showed up when given the chance, especially as the starter, and is even projected as a Top 25 player in the 2019 NFL Draft. What the question becomes though, is who replaces his fierce mentality, and range across the field. Players such as Shyheim Carter and Jared Mayden will be expected to take over the strong safety position, but dont think the load of early enrollees and newcomers Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Helms wont have a say so in this.
Jalen Hurts- Jalen Hurts will forever be a name to remember as he led Alabama to the National Championship as a freshman, led Alabama to a comeback in the SEC Championship, and gave his heart to Alabama. Now that he has graduated, he is taking a look at his options as a grad transfer. Teams like OU, Miami, and Maryland are all looking to land the former SEC Player of the Year and are still attempting to bring him in. The backup QB position will be fought for by names like Mac Jones and incoming players Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson if Hurts does decide to leave, as Tua will be the expected starting QB in 2019.
As most can see, Alabama will have quite a bit of talent to replace, but do not expect the Tide to just bow down to everybody else on college football. Nick Saban is arguably the greatest head coach of all time and will not look past the gaps he needs to replace.
(Photo courtesy of Hannah Saad)