The two-time defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide lost 3 impact players from the squad to the NFL Draft on Friday (juniors Eddie Lacy, Dee Milliner, and D.J. Fluker).
This is on top of the losses of 4 key starters on offense and 4 key starters on defense. Typically, losing a projected eight players to the first three rounds of the NFL Draft (most of whom likely project to be drafted in the first round) would be devastating to most teams.
But not this one.
Alabama is set to reload.
Milliner is set to be replaced by John Fulton or Geno Smith, both Rivals100 players from the 2011 and 2012 classes respectively. Neither are as good as Milliner, but both are more than capable. The competition to replace Lester will likely be fierce, but his replacement will be strong.
Lacy’s carries will mostly go to Yeldon who was arguably the better back anyway, and Kenyan Drake, Jalston Fowler, and Dee Hart also have shown promise. The Tide also have Breitbart Sports #6 recruit Derrick Henry and 4-star Altee Tenpenny coming in.
At linebacker, Alabama loses Nico Johnson, but most of his playing time was going to returner C.J. Mosely anyway. The other linebackers are returning. The defensive line will take a hit with the loss of Jesse Williams and Damion Square, but Jeoffrey Pagan will take Square’s spot with ease though Williams will be harder to replace.
The offensive line has been hit hardest with the losses of Jones, Warmack, and Fluker, but I still expect their replacements to give Alabama a solid offensive line. The loss of the two starting tight ends won’t hurt as Brian Vogler and others are perhaps even better than those in front.
In short, I see the play of Alabama’s position groups in 2013 compared to 2012 being along these lines:
Running Backs: Better
Wide Receivers: Better
Tight Ends: Same
Offensive Line: Worse
Defensive Line: Slightly Worse
Linebackers: Much Better
Defensive Backs: Slightly Worse
Coming off a second straight title, particularly one that was a four-touchdown victory, Alabama fans should not worry that 5 of 8 position groups will be the same or better than they were the year before. The rest of us should not fret for Saban, he’s just reloading.