MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — With most of its top offensive skill players returning from its national championship squad, Alabama should remain a top team in 2013.
Quarterback AJ McCarron has stated he will return for his senior season, running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper, both freshmen, will remain focal points of the Crimson Tide offense next season. With such productive players still in the fold, Alabama likely will enter the 2013 season No. 1 overall after pounding Notre Dame 42-14 in Monday’s BCS National Championship Game; the Tide entered 2012 at No. 2.
Yeldon, who rushed for 1,108 yards in his debut season, feels the combination of him and Cooper, by far the team’s leading receiver, will be a daunting combination for opposing teams next season.
“It’s going to be pretty scary for the defense that’s going to be defending us,” said Yeldon, who entered Monday’s BCS National Championship game with 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns with four 100-yard games.
The most efficient signal caller in the nation this season, McCarron who set a school record with 30 touchdown passes after throwing four in Monday’s championship game.
There are 17 seniors who graduate from this year’s squad and some players may leave for the NFL, most notably running back Eddie Lacy, tackle D.J. Fluker and cornerback Dee Milliner.
All three juniors have not stated their intentions yet, saying they were focusing on last night’s title game and would decide about their futures after the season in over.
Lacy is rated the second-best draft-eligible running back, Fluker is a projected first round pick by the National Football Post and Milliner, a Millbrook native, is projected as a top-10 pick in nearly every expert’s mock draft should he choose to leave.
Replacing Lacy with Yeldon would be a relative easy transition, losing Milliner, perhaps the best cornerback in the country, would hurt a secondary which will also lose safety Robert Lester to graduation and Fluker would be a third departure along an offensive line which also loses Rimington Trophy-winning center Barrett Jones and All-American left guard Chance Warmack to graduation.
Right guard Anthony Steen and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio could be the only two returning starters on what was among the best offensive lines in college football this season.
Steen said losing good friends and teammates to graduation or the draft will be difficult but that the returning group will have to persevere.
“It’s tough to face the fact that you’re going to lose a bunch of good friends and good players but it’s part of life and you’re going to have to move on,” he said.
The defensive line loses Jesse Williams, Damion Square and Quinton Dial and linebacker Nico Johnson also graduates. Linebacker C.J. Mosley has said he will return for his senior season as well and the great pass tip he had in the final play of the SEC Championship game against Georgia may have already defined his career.
“It might be one of the plays people will remember, but I’d hope to have a lot more,” Mosley said.