Alabama’s 2020-21 season ended with a national championship win over Ohio State, which was the goal of everyone in the organization. But shortly after the 52-24 win in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Monday night, talks were had about the future and decisions that have to be made.
“The to-do list started after the game last night,” head coach Nick Saban said Tuesday morning. “Meetings with players, continue to have meetings with players, whether it’s draft status or one of the other unusual things, the seniors can even come back if they want to come back next year. Talking to some of those guys.
“We’ve got juniors that have to make decisions about the draft. Those things are pretty immediate, and we started on them last night right after the game.”
The deadline to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft is Monday, Jan. 18, and these discussions soon after the final whistle happen every season, national title game or not. But as Saban pointed out, there’s a new wrinkle this year, one affected and altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, that every player gets an extra year of eligibility, including those that technically ran out of it.
Guys like DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood all chose to return for their senior years and likely increased their draft stock in doing so. Other guys like Deonte Brown, Landon Dickerson and Thomas Fletcher have already accepted invitations to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile and weren’t considered because of it, though they could still come back.
With that in mind, here are some of the seniors that could benefit from returning in 2021.
Miller Forristall, TE
Forristall has played a lot of football at Alabama, from seeing the field as a freshman in 2016 to being the No. 1 tight end the last two seasons. The veteran tight end was a redshirt senior this year, so if he chooses to return, it would be for a sixth season. But with the potential for several offensive starters to leave, getting a guy like Forristall back would be beneficial.
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” Forristall said on Dec. 29. “But honestly, right now, we’ve got Notre Dame in a couple of days, that’s where I’m focused. … If I stay another year I’ll push for even more guys to come back.”
Dylan Moses, LB
Moses is technically a redshirt junior since he missed all of the 2019 season with a knee injury, but he is listed as a senior on Alabama’s roster and went through the Senior Day ceremony prior to the Iron Bowl (all of the players listed here did). That could already answer the question, but having played through pain all year long, Moses could benefit from another year of rehab and recovery to get back to his old self before declaring for the draft in 2022.
Chris Owens, OL
The Tide is likely losing three offensive line starters in Leatherwood, Dickerson and Brown, and with Owens being a fifth-year senior, he could be a fourth departing starter since he filled in for Dickerson at center during the two College Football Playoff games. But with three of the five OL positions potentially up for grabs this offseason, and with Owen’s versatility, he would give UA an experienced option at several spots should he choose to play another year.
Brian Robinson, RB
Of all the players listed (in alphabetical order), Robinson could benefit the most from returning for a fifth season. Harris will be moving on to the NFL, and that frees up the top spot in the Tide backfield. Harris (251) received more than half of the team’s carries (477) this fall, so a guy like Robinson could see his involvement in the offense increase and thus his draft value increase, as well. He would also provide leadership for the young backs on the roster.
Charlie Scott, P
Alabama didn’t punt much in 2020. It didn’t have to. The Crimson Tide only punted 32 times in 13 games (2.5 punts per game) as its offense led the team to a national championship. UA had a competition at punter that was eventually won by Air Force transfer Charlie Scott, the younger brother of JK Scott, and Scott performed well in his limited opportunities. Again, with offensive stars set to leave, getting an experienced punter back might not be a bad idea.
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