Alabama Football Recruiting: Top Prospects to Replace Departing Talent
It seems that no matter how much talent Alabama loses at the end of every season, it has no problem picking up right where it left off in the next.
Apparently, that's what happens when you've built your reputation upon being one of the mighty SEC's very best teams: You have no problem recruiting the best of the best to replace the best of the best and compelling them to choose you over the Notre Dames, USCs and Georgias of the world.
What happened when Trent Richardson left Alabama to become a top-three draft pick? Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon stepped up to become the most fearsome backfield tandem in the NCAA. What happens when the Crimson Tide lose some of their best defensive players to the 2012 draft? The next group of guys steps in to finish the year with the top-ranked unit in the nation.
That's why there should be no fear about how Alabama will respond next season after losing some top-tier players to the NFL. Here's a look at some of the talent replacing the departing stars.
RB Derrick Henry
Alabama's explosive running game was a colossal reason why it was able to put itself in a position to be in the BCS National Championship Game for two consecutive years, and it's a big reason why it was able to win both years. Last year, it was Richardson who shouldered the load—this year, it was a combination of TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacy, of whom the latter has since declared for the NFL draft.
Given Alabama's track record of success in recruiting solid running backs, there's no reason to believe Derrick Henry won't be able to come up big in the next few years.
The Yulee, Fla. native ranks as the fourth-best running back nationally and finished his senior season in 2012 with 55 touchdowns and 4,261 yards, establishing himself as the leading rusher in Yulee High School history. He is heralded as a big (6'3", 243 pounds), fast prospect who can blow away defenders.
There are questions about whether he'll remain a running back or transition to another offensive position that could better utilize his skills, but no matter where he ends up, he'll impact the game plan.
OL Grant Hill
AJ McCarron is a great quarterback on his own, but one of the reasons he was able to keep Alabama's offense rolling all season was because of his offensive line, which was incredibly impressive—but especially in the national championship game against Notre Dame's vaunted defense.
As some guys—including Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker—leave for the bright lights of the NFL, they will be replaced by linemen who will prove to be just as competent, including Grant Hill—not that Grant Hill, but hopefully just as exciting. The 4-star recruit out of Huntsville, Ala. ranks as a top-five offensive lineman nationally and he has perfect size already at 6'5" and 320 pounds.
His pass protection skills are solid and he's a beast opening up running lanes, and as long has he keeps his size in check throughout his time in Tuscaloosa, he'll continue to develop into more and more of a threat.
DB Maurice Smith
We've heard a lot about Alabama's efficient offense, but the reason the Crimson Tide have been able to achieve what they have achieved over the last couple of years is because of defense. As we saw in this year's BCS championship, the very best defense wins.
Alabama is losing one of its key defensive backs in Dee Milliner, who has declared for the draft after his junior season. His big-game potential will be hard to replace, but it will be a little bit easier now that Maurice Smith has committed.
The 4-star corner from Sugar Land, Tx. has perfect size at 5'11" and 174 pounds and is the No. 14-ranked corner in the nation. Most importantly, his size will make him an excellent matchup against the bigger, faster wide receivers Alabama will undoubtedly continue to face in the super-competitive SEC. He also has the versatility to transition to safety if necessary and is particularly effective against the deep ball.
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