Alabama will begin its on-field preparation for the Sugar Bowl later this week, but the Crimson Tide’s 2023 roster is already beginning to take shape, whether that is with players entering the transfer portal or seniors accepting invites to play in the Senior Bowl, effectively turning pro.
Seven players have already agreed to play in February’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., including offensive linemen Emil Ekiyor and Tyler Steen, defensive linemen Byron Young and DJ Dale, safety DeMarcco Hellams, tight end Cameron Latu and placekicker Will Reichard. Unless they change their minds, all seven will not be returning to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for another year.
There are still seniors that could accept invites for the annual all-star game, as well, and there are players on Alabama’s roster that have decisions to make regarding the NFL. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft is Monday, Jan. 16, and so far, no Crimson Tide player has announced their intentions to either enter the draft or return to school.
Those decisions are typically announced after the season ends, but with Alabama not making the College Football Playoff – for only the second time since its inception – there is the chance for some of the top draft hopefuls to opt-out of the Sugar Bowl against No. 9 Kansas State. The biggest names are obviously quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson, who are both potential top-five picks in this year’s draft, but neither has revealed their plans.
Here, we take a look at the Tide players still facing draft decisions in the coming days/weeks.
Draft eligible: Bryce Young
It would be a complete surprise if Young doesn’t declare for the draft. He is currently projected to be one of the first players off the board in late April after two stellar seasons as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback. The announcement will come, it’s just a matter of when and whether or not Young plans to play in the bowl game. No one would blame him if he opts out given how high he is expected to go in the draft, but Young has yet to share his intentions.
Draft eligible: Jahmyr Gibbs, Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams
Another player that is likely to turn pro is Gibbs, who is either the No. 2 or No. 3 running back on draft big boards, depending on where you look. Producing 1,455 all-purpose yards in his first year at Alabama after transferring from Georgia Tech, Gibbs has continued to be productive in both the running and passing game. He’s another guy to watch in terms of availability for the bowl game. McClellan and Williams are both eligible to enter the draft, but as things stand right now, neither player is expected to test the waters and should be back.
Draft eligible: Jermaine Burton, Tyler Harrell
This could mark the first year since 2019 that Alabama hasn’t had a receiver taken in the draft. The last three years have featured five first-round picks as the passing game has flourished, but the 2022 receiving corps struggled with consistency this fall and barring something unforeseen, it’s unlikely that any Crimson Tide wideouts are taken. Reports have surfaced that Burton could be back in 2023, but he hasn’t made a public announcement on his future. The same goes for Harrell, who could return to UA by using an extra year of eligibility.
Draft eligible: Justin Eboigbe, Tim Smith
Two defensive linemen have already accepted invitations to play in the Senior Bowl in Dale and Young, and both have been first-team contributors since they arrived on campus in 2019. The third senior that has seen the field each of the last four years in Eboigbe, but he was forced to miss two-thirds of the season due to a neck injury. Nick Saban said the procedure he underwent would enhance his opportunity to play in the future, so it’s possible Eboigbe could return – and play – in 2023. The same goes for Smith, who started six games this fall.
Draft eligible: Will Anderson, Henry To’o To’o, Chris Braswell
Much like Bryce Young, Anderson is undoubtedly entering the draft as one of the nation’s top prospects, regardless of position. It’s just a matter of if he will play in the bowl game or not, and we are still waiting on him to make a decision after raking in every individual award he was a finalist for. If he doesn’t play in the bowl game, Braswell should start opposite Dallas Turner. He is draft eligible but likely to return in 2023. To’o To’o will likely enter the draft, as well but hasn’t accepted a Senior Bowl invite or announced his intentions for the bowl game/draft.
Draft eligible: Jordan Battle, Brian Branch, Eli Ricks, Malachi Moore
Hellams will play in the Senior Bowl, but he is the only defensive back to reveal his future plans. Battle also returned for the 2022 campaign and is likely to declare for the draft but has yet to announce anything to the public. After a strong junior season, Branch is considered one of the best defensive back prospects in the draft and will likely turn pro. Whether he plays in the bowl game or not is something we will continue to watch. Neither Ricks nor Moore has made their intentions known, but Ricks could enter the draft while Moore is likely to return.
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