TUSCALOOSA — Two days after its worst performance in years, Alabama’s beleaguered defense received some good news when two key junior starters announced they were coming back to school.
Coming off Monday night’s debacle against Clemson, when the Crimson Tide defense surrendered 44 points in a 44-16 beat down, both defensive end Raekwon Davis and cornerback Trevon Diggs declared their intentions to forgo early entrance into the NFL and return to play out their senior seasons at Alabama next year.
“The NFL has always been my goal, but playing football at the University of Alabama is an experience that only happens once, and I’m not ready to see that end,” Davis wrote in a tweeted picture featuring a promotional image of him and his signature. “I have a lot of unfinished business on the field and in the classroom as I work to finish my degree.
“So, with that said, after talking to my family, and a lot of prayer, I have decided to return to Alabama for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the field with this family, and finish what we started. Roll Tide!”
Diggs’ announcement was much simpler, simply tweeting, “Let’s do it 1 more time! #RollTide,” with a picture of him in full Alabama gear, something the first-year starter hasn’t been able to wear since suffering a season-ending broken right foot against Arkansas on Oct. 6.
The 6-foot-7 Davis could be considered a bit of a surprise after he has received some early first-round consideration in multiple online mock drafts this season, with many believing his sheer size will be enough to warrant first- or second-day consideration. But Davis’ inability to create much pressure – he finished with just 5 ½ tackles for loss and 1 ½ sacks over 15 games this season – has some wondering if he’s ready for the next level just yet.
Another key starting defender who is expected to return for their senior season — but hasn’t formally announced anything yet — is junior middle linebacker Mack Wilson.
Wilson, who struggled at times Monday night against Clemson, once again implied his intention to come back on social media Tuesday when he tweeted: “That feeling will never leave me. We’ll be back. #RollTide” with a prayer emoji.
Wilson’s mother, Sandra, told the Montgomery Advertiser in mid-December that her son had already made up his mind to play out his senior season at Alabama and graduate with his college degree — “His plan is to return for his senior year because he said he has unfinished business,” Sandra told the Advertiser on Dec. 17 — but Wilson has denied any such final decision in recent media availabilities.
“I feel like when that time comes, I’ll sit down with my family and talk about it and do what’s best for me and my family,” Wilson said Jan. 1. “But as of right now, I’m focused on Clemson and trying to win another national championship. We’ll decide, me and my family will decide after that.”
Given how active he is on social media, a formal declaration could come at any moment.
Draft-eligible Crimson Tide defenders that are most likely gone include redshirt sophomore nose guard Quinnen Williams, with junior outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings and junior safety Deionte Thompson still very much up-in-the-air regarding their status.
Williams, who was presented the Outland Trophy on Tuesday night, is widely believed to be a near-lock to be selected among the first five picks in the upcoming NFL Draft, while both Jennings and Thompson carry potential first- or second-round grades, with Thompson believed to be one of the top safety prospects in this year’s draft class.