Alabama Football: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Crimson Tide vs. Virginia Tech

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2013

A.J. McCarron should enhance his pro stock with a strong year.
A.J. McCarron should enhance his pro stock with a strong year.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While most eyes are set on Alabama's quest for a third consecutive title, NFL teams are waiting to once again snatch Nick Saban's prized talent.

The college juggernaut is unsurprisingly a gold mine for pro scouts. Last year, three Crimson Tide stars graduated to the pros during the NFL draft, with three of them nabbed from picks No. 9-11. 

With all due respect to Virginia Tech, who will attempt to thwart Alabama's title plans early, the Hokies are not much of a match for the powerhouse. Odds Shark has them as a 21-point underdog, so Saturday night's matchup is unlikely to be a nail-biter.

Yet any time the Crimson Tide take the field, football aficionados with college and pro rooting interests should be watching. This team may boast even more talent than the past two victors.


A.J. McCarron, QB

After dutifully serving the role of effective game manager, A.J. McCarron should burst further into the spotlight during his senior campaign.

Alabama's general thrived last season, completing 67.2 percent of his passes with a pristine 30:3 touchdown-interception ratio. With Everett Golson receiving most of the national championship game attention, it was McCarron who pounced with 264 passing yards and four touchdowns.

The 6'4", 214-pound signal-caller could have attempted to ridden that game to glory, but he instead will further build his stock up as he proves he's no mere product of the system. 

Then again, it's not his arm everyone is watching this weekend. Instead, Cole Cubelic sparked a frenzy by tweeting a photo of the quarterback sporting a walking boot on his right foot.

No need to panic. According to's Mark Schlabach, McCarron is wearing the boot to support an ingrown toenail and is good to go on Saturday. Nevertheless, every step taken by the man leading the nation's No. 1 squad will be monitored closely. 

With one more year of experience under his belt and Eddie Lacy gone to the Green Bay Packers, look for the young passer to make a Heisman run while attempting to orchestrate a three-peat.


Cyrus Kouandjio, LT

Of course, someone has to shield McCarron so he can comfortably make plays in the pocket. He can rest easy knowing Cyrus Kouandjio is protecting his blindside.

The 6'6", 310-pound tackle was part of a barrier that limited McCarron to get sacked 22 times last season. Armed with bulking size and a chiseled physique, Kouandjio is the complete package.

Shattering the typical prototype for an offensive lineman, Kouandjio possesses just 16 percent body fat, the highest rate among Alabama starters. That proportion likely has NFL scouts salivating at his pro potential.'s Bob Lichtenfels wrote a glowing review of the young lineman:

Kouandjio plays the game with a mean streak and he finishes blocks. He is a dominant run blocker and is outstanding in pass protection. Shows outstanding feet while playing in space he can stop big run stuffers or speed rushers.

So he does it all. That's usually a good thing. Watch the trenches to see if he punishes Virginia Tech linemen during his season premiere.


C.J. Mosley, MLB

Alabama didn't become a dynamo by piling up the points. Its defensive ferocity has lifted the Crimson Tide to the cream of the crop, and C.J. Mosley deserves a lion's share of the credit.

Part of a unit that allowed an FBS-low 250 total yards per game last season, Mosley will spend his senior season convincing NFL teams to take him early in the first round. He collected 107 tackles last season, including eight against the Fighting Irish to secure his second championship. 

He could have landed a cushy payday had he gone pro earlier this year, but Mosley decided to stay put, a decision that could propel him to top-10 status if he continues to flourish in the heart of Alabama's defense.

While not an electric pass-rusher, Mosley's ability to patrol all portions of the field makes him a towering defense presence that most NFL squads will be lucky to have.