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Update: Tide’s Richardson, Kirkpatrick, Hightower headed to the NFL

Alabama Crimson Tide's Richardson holds up the trophy with teammate Kirkpatrick after they defeated the LSU Tigers during the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans Reuters

Somewhat lost in the afterglow of a second BcS title in three years was the fact that Alabama could very well lose at least a couple of key pieces to early entry into the NFL draft.

Thursday afternoon, that “could very well” turned into a definitive need for Nick Saban to reload at two key positions yet again.

At a previously scheduled press conference, running back Trent Richardson and defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick (both pictured) announced that they will be leaving eligibility on the table and making themselves available for the April draft.  Both are projected to be taken in the first round, which, along with possessing two championship rings apiece, prompted both players to do the expected and leave Tuscaloosa early.

“These young men have done a fabulous job of representing the University of Alabama, their families and themselves with their hard work, their dedication and their commitment to excellence, not only on the football field, but also by the kind of people that they have been,” said head coach Nick Saban in a statement. “I know it is a difficult decision for these guys. They both love the University of Alabama, but they have worked hard all their lives to create the opportunity to play at a place like this, to have the success they have had at a place like this and also to create opportunities for themselves and their future. I want you to know that we are 100 percent supportive of both of these young men in terms of what their choice is.”

Richardson was a first-team All-SEC selections following the 2011 season, while Kirkpatrick was a second-team pick for the second straight season.  Richardson was also second-team selections in 2010.

As for replacing the duo, Richardson’s successor may have the “easiest” go of it based simply on sheer numbers; while Eddie Lacy doesn’t possess Richardson’s explosiveness, the junior-to-be does appear to be a more-than-solid candidate to at least carry a sizable chunk of the Tide running game.  Or there’s Jalston Fowler or Dee Hart — provided he’s fully recovered from a knee injury and has no setbacks — or T.J. Yeldon or… well, you get the point.

The loss of Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, is magnified by the fact that the other starting corner, DeQuan Menzie, is gone as well due to expired eligibility.  Additionally, star safety Mark Barron will be lost to graduation as well.

As they seemingly do every year, though, Saban and his coaching staff will merely reach into the cupboard and pull out highly-touted players to replace the ones lost to early NFL entry or graduation.  That’s just how the Tide rolls, I guess you could say.

UPDATED 3:49 p.m. ET: Just to take care of this little bit of housecleaning, Alabama confirmed in a press release that LB Dont’a Hightower has decided he will also declare for the draft.

“After four great years at the University of Alabama, I have decided it is time to make myself eligible for the NFL Draft,” Hightower said. “The chance to be a key part of our national championship team this year made for the perfect end of my Alabama career. I can’t thank Coach Saban, Coach Smart and the entire coaching staff enough for helping mold me in the player and person I am today. I also want to say thanks to my teammates and everyone at the University of Alabama that helped make this such a special experience.”

The redshirt junior was a consensus All-American in 2011, and started 40 games during his Tide career.

There was some good news on the attrition front for the Tide as the same release confirmed that offensive lineman Chance Warmack and defensive back Robert Lester will be returning.

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12 Responses to “Update: Tide’s Richardson, Kirkpatrick, Hightower headed to the NFL”
  1. Deb says: Jan 12, 2012 2:44 PM

    Much as it hurts to see him go, I’m relieved Richardson has made this decision. For a while he was torn about wanting to be the first in his family to get a college degree. I’m a huge believer in finishing your education, but he’s a certain first-rounder with two children to support. It’s too much to risk a career-ending injury at the college level. I’m sure Nick advised him to get the guaranteed NFL contract, and that’s a wise decision under the circumstances. Mark Ingram finished his degree in three years. Don’t now how much further Trent has to go, but if he really wants his diploma, he can continue to work toward that goal after securing his family’s financial future.

    Hope he and Kirkpatrick fulfill all their dreams in the NFL. Would love it if my Steelers could pick up either of them, though I doubt Richardson would be available when their time comes.

  2. burntorangehorn says: Jan 12, 2012 3:02 PM

    The tie-breaker for Kirkpatrick between Alabama and Texas was reportedly the proximity, as he has a child who lives in Alabama. He said something about how things might’ve been different if Texas were two states over, and while I’m never a fan of those hat games, I think he made the right decision and handled himself very well. This is going to be great to see the guy able to take good care of his kid, and ideally able to finance ways to visit more. I’m glad for him, and I hope he’s a top-ten pick.

  3. dickroy says: Jan 12, 2012 3:02 PM

    I would love to see Kirkpatrick go to the Steelers, but he won’t slip that far. Anyway we need to spend our first six picks on offensive linemen.

  4. tide4life says: Jan 12, 2012 3:10 PM

    Ouch. Best to both and congratulations to the lucky teams who land them! Take care of those babies, guys.

  5. rolltide510 says: Jan 12, 2012 3:28 PM

    Hightower will enter the draft btw, he didn’t declare at the press conference because as a RS JR he considers himself a senior and has graduated so he’s not declaring “early” in his minds.

  6. dawhorsefeathers says: Jan 12, 2012 4:19 PM

    See you in Baltimore, Dont’a.

  7. Deb says: Jan 12, 2012 5:00 PM

    @dawhorsefeathers …

    Nooooo. It’s tough enough as a Steelers fan to be hating the Ravens but still mentally high-fiving Mt. Cody. Don’t do it, Dont’a! For once, at least we get to draft ahead of you guys :D

    @dickroy …

    ROFL … have been saying that myself for years. But now it’s Guard, Tackle, Guard, D-lineman, QB, Safety, Corner, Kicker, Linebacker, Tackle, Guard, D-lineman, RB, Linebacker, special teams

    I believe we’re okay at wide receiver :)

  8. Deb says: Jan 12, 2012 5:21 PM

    @dickroy …

    Was cleaning out my e-mail today and had forgotten to watch the Steelers musical Christmas card. It was hilarious as usual. If you haven’t seen it, the laughs will help you over the post-game funk. Here’s the link:

    http://www.steelers.com/video-and-audio/videos/Steelers-Christmas-Carols—Part-4-of-4/ebb652fd-22e9-4a6a-86ec-a0c2af67f449

  9. jason1214 says: Jan 12, 2012 9:11 PM

    Good luck in the NFL gents,
    Your contributions will be missed. RTR

  10. dickroy says: Jan 13, 2012 7:00 AM

    @Deb

    Thanks Deb! I really enjoyed the Steelers Christmas card. I also agree with your draft order. We have a great QB and great young wide receivers. we just need to protect Ben and give him time.

  11. lasseter1113 says: Jan 13, 2012 11:08 AM

    You know I never mentioned the fact that Dre Kirkpatrick grew up just a couple of blocks away from me here in Gadsden, Alabama. I shop at the same Dollar General as his parents do and I see them all the time. I hardly ever see Dre anymore since he moved to T-town. His father is a really nice man. Last time I saw him I told him to tell Dre thanks for everything he has done for the University of Alabama.

    Can you imagine how good Alabama would always be if players couldn’t go to the NFL until after their senior year? I have to be honest here and say that this really sucks that almost all of our star players on defense are going to be gone next year. I am not mad at any of them for going early though, family comes first. Because they are all leaving we will probably lose a few games next year. Coach Saban’s defense is so complicated it takes the new starters at least one year to learn it. I would expect us back competing for the national title in 2013 since A.J. McCarron will be a senior and players like Landon Collins will have at least one year of experience under their belts. I hope that I am wrong. If we can beat Michigan on that first game of the season that will help us out big time in the polls for the rest of the year and might help out a lot with these young players confidence level. Problem is Michigan likes to throw the ball and teams like that are going to be attacking our secondary like crazy next year. Currently Saban has the number one recruiting class in the nation and if he can reel in all of these players we are going to be scary good in the near future. We will just have to see what happens on signing day and move forward from there. It’s a nasty never ending cycle isn’t it? Can’t stop and enjoy this last years national championship season without looking forward and worrying about next year. Mark my words, time flies by so fast these days the first game of the season will be here before you know it. Roll Tide!!!!!!

  12. Deb says: Jan 13, 2012 1:27 PM

    @dickroy …

    Glad you enjoyed it!!

    @lasseter1113 …

    I’ve heard we have strong second- and third-team players, so we may have a better 2012 than you’re expecting. It’s not possible to win a championship every season–and if you did, you wouldn’t appreciate it as much. So for me the gift is being in contention. That gives you a reason to hope each year. :D

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