TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If Alabama is to regain its mantle as the top team in college football next season, it will have to do so without a pair of its most talented underclassmen as safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio are set to enter the 2014 NFL draft, according to a source.
Both juniors are potential first-round picks.
It was questionable whether Kouandjio would opt to turn pro, saying before the Sugar Bowl that he was “50-50” on the idea of leaving school early. But even after a poor performance against Oklahoma, in which he was exposed against the speed rush of the Sooners, he still ranks among the top offensive line prospects in the country as the 6-foot-5, 310-pound athlete is listed as the fourth-best offensive tackle available in the draft by ESPN’s Scouts inc.
The departure of Clinton-Dix, though, seemed inevitable. Even after a multigame suspension for improper benefits, the talented 6-foot-1, 208-pound junior safety played well, showing the closing speed and range coaches so covet. He finished the season fourth on the team in tackles (52) and tied for first in interceptions (2).
Scouts Inc. ranks Clinton-Dix as the No. 1 safety and the No. 2 defensive back among draft-eligible players.
The good news for Tide fans is that coach Nick Saban isn’t lacking for replacements. Alabama is the only school in the country to finish in the top three of ESPN’s class rankings every year since 2008. The Tide is coming off back-to-back No. 1-ranked recruiting classes and is poised to make that three in a row next month at signing day.
Landon Collins, the former top safety in his class, rose to the degree of full-time starter as a sophomore this season and could slide over to free safety upon Vinnie Sunseri’s return from injury. Collins made the most of a limited time starting, finishing second on the team in tackles (70), tied for first in interceptions (2) and No. 1 outright in total passes defended (8).
Filling in for Kouandjio, isn’t as clear cut. Leon Brown was listed as Kouandjio’s backup at left tackle, but Cam Robinson, the No. 1-ranked offensive lineman in the 2014 class, could push for immediate playing time.
Whether Alabama will be replacing any more talented underclassmen will be determined later today as its expected that linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, along with Clinton-Dix and Kouandjio, will make their decisions at a 4:30 p.m. CT news conference.
- College football reporter for ESPN
- Sideline reporter for ESPN Radio coverage
- Covers Alabama and the SEC.
- Joined ESPN in 2012.
- Graduate of Auburn University.