Rumblings of unfinished business are making their way around Tuscaloosa that may result in a few star Alabama Football Juniors returning for their Senior years.
Ever since the Tide fell to Auburn and the College Football playoff committee dropped them out of the top ten, the Alabama Football team seems to feel disrespected. Despite losing in two dog fights- one of which to the top team in the country- a lack of quality wins was the justification for the drop. Although a hard pill to swallow, Alabama Football has lost its last 3 games against quality teams.
“Bama fatigue” is real. Now that Alabama is not in the Playoff, the whining for its expansion has slowed. Devonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Xavier McKinney, and Tua Tagovailoa were all snubbed from the national awards list for 2019 after being left off the Biletnikoff, Thorpe, and Maxwell awards lists entirely.
The discussion of Juniors possibly returning started with Tua. Prior to his hip injury, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would leave for the NFL, taking his millions from being a top draft pick. After the uncertainty of his injury dropping him to potentially late in the first round or possibly off the board altogether, Tua began to discuss the possibility of returning with the media.
According to a recent Sports Illustrated article, there are several Juniors following Tua’s lead toying with the idea of returning. On the CFP ranking show Sunday, Kirk Herbstreit referenced a “players only” meeting called by Tua for all draft eligible Juniors and mentioned expecting all the eligible Juniors to leave should not be a done deal just yet.
If the rumors turn out to be true and any player on the fence currently decides to stay, the Alabama Football team could see Tua, Henry Ruggs III, Devonta Smith, Xavier McKinney, Dylan Moses, Alex Leatherwood, and Joshua McMillion (injury resulting in another year of eligibility per the NCAA) one more season.
The return of these guys would effectively ensure a 2020 Championship if they all remain healthy throughout the season. Tua’s talent speaks for itself, and there isn’t much that would change that next season. His injury risk seems to be higher than most, but another injury would put him back in the same spot he is now. The reward would be the millions of dollars he might earn back working his way back to the top of the draft next season beating out Fields and Lawrence.
Giving Tua another year with the majority of the best wide receiver core in the country seems unfair. Losing former Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Jeudy will not set the receiver core back any if Smith and Ruggs both return. Smith and Waddle kept improving throughout the season, and Ruggs’ speed is next level. Metchie should step up to fill the fourth man spot.
The defense was certainly the downfall of the Tide this season. It struggled to get off the field on third down frequently because of penalties. Saban mentioned throughout the season getting back to the “Alabama standard”. Returning Moses and McKinney next season would be a total game changer. It would not be a stretch to say that losing Moses before the season was really the reason Alabama Football lost to LSU and the Iron Bowl.
Moses was a finalist for the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker as a sophomore. Moses was insanely talented and understood Nick Saban’s defense well. He led the team in his last season with 86 tackles. The only thing missing was his leadership voice. As a young player alongside Mack Wilson, he never stepped into that “coordinator on the field” role that so many linebackers before him had.
Moses must prove this to NFL scouts and might likely return for his senior season to gain that leadership experience. Having Moses in at linebacker and arguably the best safety in the country, McKinney, behind him at safety, the Alabama Football defense would undoubtedly return to the glory days.
The possible return of all these players would be huge for the Tide in continuing the dynasty. The talent and experience of these guys would mask any other deficiencies at other positions on the field, much like Quinnen Williams masked a lot of problems with the Alabama defense last season.
Does the Tide feels slighted and have something to prove in 2020? It might all be too good to be true, but only time will tell. For now, I’ll keep dreaming about the possibility of watching the greatest team Saban has ever had next season.