The Alabama Crimson Tide is a program with a long history of creating championship teams and NFL-caliber players. Whenever it is time for early NFL Draft announcements, the Crimson Tide usually has a handful of talented players depart. Among some of the early departures include quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., and safety Xavier McKinney. Several impact players also announced their intention to return for the 2020 college football season for Alabama. Many of the players that announced their decision to return mentioned having unfinished business. These players that high-caliber NFL prospects that likely would have been drafted high in the 2020 NFL Draft. We take a look at the top 2020 returners For Alabama.
Linebacker Dylan Moses
Tide fans were happy to hear the news of the return of Moses, especially after an ACL tear before last season. Many experts believed that he should’ve taken his losses and withdrew for the NFL Draft before he damaged himself more. Moses wanted to raise his draft stock back up after missing all last season instead of waiting for a team to select him late in the 2020 NFL Draft. His leadership, knowledge, and experience will be crucial for a defense that suffered through inconsistencies last season. Moses led the Tide’s defense in total tackles accounted for with 86 tackles as well as 10 tackles for loss. He will be needed to help create efficiency and better communication on the field with defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who struggled at times this past season.
Linebacker Joshua McMillion
McMillion is the other starting linebacker that suffered a major knee injury for the 2019 season. McMillion, unlike Moses, had more to prove going into his senior season as the starting linebacker by seniority. It is was likely when he suffered this major injury that he was going be granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. His experience with the team and defense will be needed for the Tide next season. In his first real season of playing in 2018, he accounted for 14 total tackles and 11 solo tackles. Even though he doesn’t have the same amount of experience as Moses, he will come back as a much-needed linebacker for a recovering defense.
Offensive Tackle Alex Leatherwood
The Tide having Leatherwood to return for his senior season was a surprise due to the high-rising draft stock. He was projected to be a top-15 pick before he announced his intention to return to Alabama. Leatherwood was among some of the best pass protectors in the nation last season. He was one of five tackles in the nation that hasn’t given up a sack. The Crimson Tide offensive line only gave up 12 sacks overall last season. Leatherwood was named to ESPN’s Way-Too-Early All-American team for the 2020 College Football season. Having Leatherwood back for Alabama not only gives that veteran leadership on the offensive on the team overall.
Wide Receiver DeVonta Smith
Smith was the among the biggest surprises for the Tide’s high-power offense last season. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian rotated Smith from the slot receiver position to Jerry Jeudy’s out receiver spot. The switch worked out great for both receivers with two different play-style quarterbacks in Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. Smith caught 68 receptions for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He accounted for the fifth-highest amount of reception touchdowns in College Football. While Smith was gaining some traction in the first-round outlooks in the 2020 NFL Draft, Smith made the smart business to return to Alabama for his senior season. Smith will be the number one receiver for the Tide which will make him an experienced leader.
Running Back Najee Harris
While there have been some surprise players leaving, there are also many surprise players returning next season. Harris returning for his senior season was the latest and most surprising decision in college football outside of Clemson running back Travis Etienne returning. Harris will benefit from a new Tide offense next season that intends to replicate the same explosiveness and intensity. He showed his value by dominating in the run game and showing versatility in the passing game. Harris rushed for 1,224 yard and 13 touchdowns on 209 carries in his first full year starting. He also caught 27 receptions for 304 yards and seven touchdowns. Watch for Harris to get more carries for the Tide in the 2020 College Football season with a new quarterback.