NEW ORLEANS – Eli Ricks will soon make a decision regarding his future.
Available in the Caesars Superdome locker room after Alabama’s 45-20 win over Kansas State, the junior cornerback said he was going to speak to head coach Nick Saban after the 20-minute window with reporters closed and will make a decision on the NFL “today or tomorrow.”
“It’s really a decision of where I feel like I’m at,” Ricks said Saturday afternoon. “If I’m ready for the NFL or if I’m not. It’s as simple as that.”
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft is Monday, Jan. 16. Included in many way-too-early mock drafts before the start of the 2022 campaign, Ricks was not among the top-10 cornerback prospects ranked by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. this week.
Ricks, who transferred to Alabama after spending the last two years at LSU, has played in nine of the Crimson Tide’s 13 games this season. He has started four of the last five at cornerback, including the convincing Sugar Bowl win over the Wildcats. After rotating in the first four games, Ricks did not play the next three before making his first start against Mississippi State.
He arrived at Alabama after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury and dealt with other health issues before his first campaign at Alabama even kicked off. In his first interviews since joining the Tide, Ricks discussed his transition from Baton Rouge to Tuscaloosa.
“Just learning the system,” Ricks said. “I had a couple of little ding-up injuries earlier on in the season. But really just a matter of getting comfortable and used to playing how I know how to play. Coach Saban always tells me that I need to play my personal best, and he knew, even though I would look good out there, it wouldn’t be where I was supposed to be at here.
“Really just focusing on that, and really just listening to what he says. I sit right next to him in meetings, just soaking up everything. … The relationship with Coach Saban is pretty cool. Honestly, the perception of him, before I came here, is kind of different than what I got. He’s a real nice guy. He’s straightforward and direct, and he’s going to want the best for you.”
He said one of the most top challenges of making the move was “unlearning” LSU’s defense.
“We had a lot of plays at LSU called similar calls, but we did a lot of different things,” Ricks said. “Just really unlearning things was probably the hardest part. Sometimes when I first came here, I would do my old technique I learned at LSU, or I’d get a certain call and maybe we had that same call at LSU that did something different. So really just getting used to this system and making this home, that was really my main issue in the spring.”
Ricks recorded seven tackles, one tackle for loss in four pass breakups prior to the bowl game. But he almost doubled that total by finishing with six tackles against K-State. He was not safe from Saban’s wrath, however, as the coach was not happy about him allowing a first down.
“Every moment I’ve always been coachable, very conscientious,” Ricks said. “I really just hear him out, listen him out. He’s always right, in my opinion. Really just could have had a better drop on the route. The No. 1 wide receiver stalled behind him, so I could have just had a better drop. I should have known the sticks, the down-and-distance. That’s all he was really saying.”
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