Alabama Football: Who Will Replace Tide Juniors Who Declared for 2014 NFL Draft?

Marc Torrence@marctorrenceAlabama Lead WriterJanuary 17, 2014

Alabama Football: Who Will Replace Tide Juniors Who Declared for 2014 NFL Draft?

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    Alabama will lose at least four juniors to the NFL draft and reportedly a fifth.

    Cyrus Kouandjio, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Adrian Hubbard and Jeoffrey Pagan all announced at a press conference that they would forgo their senior year and declare for the draft. ESPN's Joe Schad also reported that Vinnie Sunseri will join the group in the draft, though Alabama has yet to say anything either way, even though the deadline to declare was Wednesday.

    But three straight No. 1 recruiting classes and a fourth likely on the way have left Alabama with a bevy of talent from which to choose their replacements.

    Here, I'll offer up five suggestions of players who could step in and replace the departed juniors.

    All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

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    What Alabama Loses

    Clinton-Dix was a two-year starter at free safety, who caught seven interceptions over his career, including a dagger in the BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame.

    He wasn't quite the physical presence that Mark Barron was, but his speed and range made him a valuable asset in the Crimson Tide secondary.

    Who Could Replace Him?

    Free safety is probably the position with the biggest question mark for Alabama—even more so than quarterback.

    Nick Perry has struggled in pass coverage, and Jarrick Williams has carved out a niche for himself in the "Star" position this season. One player who got looks at free safety this season was Geno Smith, a sophomore who rarely saw the field after a preseason DUI arrest.

    As a freshman, Smith grew into the Star role quite nicely and took reps as a safety this season. It would be huge for Alabama if Smith, a 4-star cornerback out of high school, can develop into a solid option on the back end.

Cyrus Kouandjio

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    What Alabama loses

    Kouandjio was a two-year starter at left tackle who possessed incredible physical tools while providing some growing pains along the way.

    He has the measurables that NFL scouts dream about and had a standout junior year that was bookended by shaky performances in the first and last games of the season.

    Who Could Replace Him?

    While Alabama doesn't typically play true freshmen right away, it's going to be hard to keep Cam Robinson off the field in 2014.

    He is rated the No. 3 overall player in the 2014 signing class and is already on campus, as he enrolled in early January.

Adrian Hubbard

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    Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    What Alabama Loses

    Hubbard was an outside linebacker whose production never quite lived up to his physical build. His 6'6" height and accompanying wingspan made him a physical specimen, and while many thought he could grow into an elite pressure, he was never able to consistently get to the quarterback. He registered just 10 sacks in three years.

    Who Could Replace Him?

    Dillon Lee sat behind him for much of the season and should get a good, hard look as his replacement.

    "Oh man, Dillon Lee is something else," cornerback Deion Belue said of Lee, according to's Michael Casagrande. "That guy is crazy. He's a beast, actually. Dillon Lee is one of a kind and he's going to be that player next year."

    Lee was a 4-star out of high school who has had two years to grow and learn coach Nick Saban's system.

Jeoffrey Pagan

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    What Alabama Loses

    Pagan wasn't the flashiest player, but he was a defensive end who got the job done in Saban's 3-4, which requires defensive ends to be more gap-fillers than pass-rushers.

    Some questioned why he would leave early, but he felt he had proved all he could at Alabama and was ready to move onto the next level.

    Who Could Replace Him?

    Freshman A'Shawn Robinson had an outstanding first year, leading the team in sacks as he came off the bench.

    His size—6'4", 320 lbs—set him apart as a freshman, but he still showed he possessed elite pass-rushing ability. Alabama rotates defensive linemen around a lot, so Robinson played a significant amount of snaps last season, but he should get a full starter's load in 2014.

Vinnie Sunseri

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    What Alabama Loses

    Sunseri was a sure tackler with deceptive speed who seemed to always make plays when Alabama needed them at strong safety.

    But more than that, he was the most vocal leader on defense and understood the system as much as anyone on the team.

    Who Could Replace Him?

    The same guy who spelled him with flying colors when Sunseri went down with an ACL injury: Landon Collins.

    One of the most hyped players of the Saban era, Collins more than "filled in" for the suspended Clinton-Dix and later for Sunseri this season, recording two interceptions including one for a touchdown.

    If there's one position that Alabama fans shouldn't be worried about in the secondary, it's strong safety, where Collins could be one of the best in the country.