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

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

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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.

Tim Irvin takes to Twitter to announce transfer from Auburn

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Eli Jenkins #7 of the Jacksonville State Gamecocks spins to avoid a tackle by defensive back Tim Irvin #22 of the Auburn Tigers on September 12, 2015 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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After just one season on The Plains, Tim Irvin will be plying his football wares elsewhere moving forward.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday, Irvin, the nephew of former Miami Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys receiving great Michael Irvin, announced that “it will be better for me to pursue my career elsewhere.” The 5-9, 194-pound defensive back gave no reason for his decision.

The Miami, Fla., native was a four-star member of AU’s 2015 recruiting class. 247Sports.com had Irvin rated as the No. 38 player at any position in the state of Florida and the No. 285 player overall in its composite rankings.

As a true freshman last season, Irvin played in 10 games. He started at nickel corner in games in which the Tigers opened in the nickel package.

As for potential landing spots?  It’s being reported that East Carolina, Miami and Texas may be considerations.

Dede Westbrook, Sooners’ leading returning receiver, arrested Monday

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 19: Wide receiver Dede Westbrook #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners pulls down a pass as cornerback Brodrick Umblance #4 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane defends September 19, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Tulsa 52-38.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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Oklahoma has a huge season opener at a neutral field against Houston to kick off 2016 in a couple of months.  Whether their top returning threat in the receiving game is on the field remains to be seen.

According to multiple media outlets, Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook was arrested late Monday morning on a charge of criminal trespassing.  The arrest occurred in Westbrook’s hometown of Cameron, Tex.

No details of what led to the arrest have been released.  An OU spokesperson said in a statement that “[w]e’re aware of it and are addressing internally.”

With Sterling Shepard off to the NFL, Westbrook is OU’s leading returning receiver.

In his first season with the Sooners, Westbrook was second on the Sooners in receptions (46) and receiving yards (743).  His 16.2 yards per catch was tops on the team for those with 20 or more receptions, while his four receiving touchdowns were tied for third.

For that production, Westbrook was named the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year.

Mark Richt to donate $1 million of his own money toward indoor practice facility at Miami

CORAL GABLES, FL - DECEMBER 04:  New University of Miami Hurricanes head football coach Mark Richt speaks after he was introduced at a press conference at the school on December 4, 2015 in Coral Gables, Florida.  (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
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If you had any doubts about Mark Richt‘s desire for an indoor practice facility at his new coaching home, those have officially been alleviated.

CaneSport.com first reported that, at a booster event in Chicago last week, the Miami head coach told those in attendance that he will be donating $1 million of his own money to be used toward the construction of The U’s indoor facility.  Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post, citing several sources who were at the event, subsequently confirmed the Rival.com website’s initial report.

In February, Boston College announced its plans for an indoor practice facility, which left Miami as the only team in the ACC without either such a structure already built or the plans in place.  While the desire for such a facility pre-dates Richt’s hiring, the former Georgia head coach has stumped for one on a regular basis since returning to his alma mater.

Richt never saw his politicking for one at his former job come to fruition, but the stumping at his new gig has seemingly helped push the idea of an indoor practice facility further down the road than it’s ever been — to the point where it’s a when, not if.

I’m very confident it’s going to happen,” Richt said a little over a week ago. “In some ways it’s been approved, with maybe a few more hoops to jump through. I’m not sure how it all works, because every university’s different. But it’s rolling down the track really fast. I think it’s going to happen pretty quick.”

It’s believed the facility Richt and others desire would cost upwards of $20 million.

PETA (again) calls on LSU to end live-mascot tradition

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 06:  LSU mascot Mike VI, a Bengal/Siberian mixed tiger, is displayed on the field before the Florida Gators take on the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 6, 2007 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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Of course they did.

Monday, LSU announced that its live tiger mascot, Mike VI, has been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. According to the school, the cancer had nothing to do with the tiger’s captivity or mascot duties.

However, that didn’t stop a certain group from pushing its agenda on this front.

Tuesday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent out a press release in which it served public notice of a letter sent to LSU calling for Mike VI to be the last live mascot utilized by the school. In the letter, PETA stated that “all captive big cats suffer psychologically when subjected to confinement, discomfort, and stress.”

“LSU further exposes them to bright lights and rowdy crowds at football games,” the release added.

“People today realize that orcas don’t belong in tanks, elephants don’t belong in circuses, and tigers don’t belong in cages in stadiums,” said PETA’s Rachel Mathews in a statement included in the release. “PETA is calling on LSU to honor Mike VI and spare future tigers a lifetime of misery by ending the live-mascot program for good.”

Below is the full text of the letter sent to the university:

I’m writing on behalf of PETA, which has more than 5 million members and supporters worldwide, including tens of thousands in Louisiana, to offer our sympathies about Mike the tiger’s cancer diagnosis. I would also like to request that you consider the following information about how tigers suffer in captivity and make Mike VI Louisiana State University’s (LSU) last live mascot.

Captive big cats (who naturally shun human contact) are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them. They live in perpetual states of confinement, discomfort, and stress and, at LSU games, are subjected to a constant barrage of disorienting lights and activity. They often become despondent and develop neurotic and self-destructive types of behavior, including pacing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation. Tigers are particularly unsuited to captivity because they require large areas to roam and opportunities to swim and climb. Even under the best of care, a tiger’s most basic instincts are thwarted in captivity, and continuing to use live animals as mascots perpetuates the cruel notion that sensitive, complex wild animals should be caged and put on display like championship trophies.

People go to LSU football games because they want to see top college athletes playing the best football in the country, not because there’s a caged tiger sitting on the sidelines. I hope you agree that it’s time to recognize society’s growing distaste for animal exhibition and bring a new tradition to LSU of using only willing, costumed human mascots. Orcas don’t belong in tanks, elephants don’t belong in the circus, and tigers do not belong in stadiums. In his sickly condition, Mike VI should not be wheeled out to games this coming season. Generations of tigers have given LSU everything they have—isn’t it time for LSU to give something back? We hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.

In a statement, an LSU spokesperson relayed that “our primary concern right now is caring for Mike VI and making sure he gets the best possible medical treatment for his condition.”

“This is not the time to discuss football season or a new tiger mascot. We are focused on Mike’s health and well-being at this time,” the statement concluded.

This is not LSU’s first brush with PETA as the group made a similar call back in 2007. That prompted the university’s then-chancellor, Sean O’Keefe, to release a statement that not only defended the tradition but compared the lifespan of a tiger in the wild to that of one in captivity.

LSU stands behind its treatment of its tigers. Their habitat and lifestyle are constantly monitored to ensure their well-being, and they receive state-of-the-art veterinary medical care from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, which can improve and extend the life of a big cat. This is evidenced by the fact that Mike V lived to be 17 years of age. Two of LSU’s tiger mascots, Mike I and Mike III, lived 19 years, and Mike IV lived 20 years 9 months and 18 days. The average lifespan for a tiger in the wild is about 8-10 years. A tiger in captivity, like Mike V, can live 14-18 years.

Interestingly, the university has “let” 11-year-old Mike VI “choose” which home games he attended the last two seasons. From the Baton Rouge Advocate:

LSU, however, lets Mike decide whether he will attend the football games, and he has received national attention for being less willing to do so than his predecessors. Mike ca decline to go to the games if he doesn’t enter his mobile carrier.

Mike attended one game in 2015 and none in 2014.