Alabama doesn't have to replace 10 early entries into the NFL draft like its division-mate LSU will be doing this offseason, but the 2013 Crimson Tide will be replacing three key contributors to the 2012 BCS National Championship team.
Running back Eddie Lacy, defensive back Dee Milliner and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker all announced on Friday that they would forgo their senior seasons and enter the 2013 NFL draft, according to a release from the school (h/t NBCSports.com).
So how will Alabama's 2013 team look as it attempts to win three straight BCS National Championships?
At running back, there should be very little dropoff. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman. The Daphne, Ala., native earned SEC All-Freshman honors and proved that he has enough talent to handle the load as a feature back in the SEC.
The 6'2", 216-pounder has the size to handle the everyday beating between the tackles and the speed and quickness to break big plays outside. Simply put, he's the next in line to a throne formerly occupied by Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Lacy (who, at their best, were all 1,300-plus-yard backs).
Behind Yeldon, Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart should both be back from injures, and Kenyan Drake played well when given the opportunity in 2012.
But the man to keep an eye on is class of 2013 commit Derrick Henry, who set the national high school career rushing record this season with 12,121 yards. The 6'3", 243-pounder boasts a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and is ranked as the No. 70 player in the country in the Rivals 100.
Rising senior John Fulton backed Milliner up in 2012, and he will likely get the first crack at lining up opposite Deion Belue in 2013. Fulton didn't pick off a pass, but he tallied 15 tackles and broke up five passes. Sophomores Geno Smith, Jabriel Washington and Bradley Sylve could all contend for playing time as well, along with several incoming members of the class of 2013.
Fluker's absence will cause some concern for Tide fans hoping that the 2013 team will replicate the smashmouth style that was a hallmark of the 2012 team. Fluker struggled at times in pass protection, but he was a big reason why Lacy and Yeldon were so successful.
Leon Brown, a recent junior college signee for the Crimson Tide, could be the answer at right tackle. The 6'6", 315-pounder was rated as a 4-star prospect by 247Sports.com. Junior Austin Shepherd or sophomore Brandon Greene could also push for playing time.
Alabama proved in 2012 that it can withstand heavy roster turnover and not miss a beat. The program truly doesn't rebuild; it reloads. Expect 2013 to be no different.
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