Alabama loses three to NFL draft

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's national championship run came at a cost, as three juniors opted to forgo their final seasons to enter the upcoming NFL draft.

Cornerback Dee Milliner, running back Eddie Lacy and right tackle D.J. Fluker made official their decisions to turn pro during a joint news conference on campus Friday.

"I would like to take this time to honor these young men for the great job that they have done in how they have represented the University of Alabama and their family," coach Nick Saban said. "They have all been great people, in terms of how they have represented our organization. From a personal character standpoint, these guys have been great representatives and great ambassadors for the University of Alabama and we really appreciate that."

All three are likely first- or second-round picks. Milliner, who finished in the top five nationally in passes defended and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in the country, is the highest-rated junior on the Crimson Tide and is the No. 1 cornerback in Scouts Inc.'s rankings.

"To cap it off with another national championship was one of the best feelings," Milliner said. "It's hard to say it's come to an end. Hopefully on the next level I can continue my success."

The buzz that redshirt sophomore linebacker Adrian Hubbard was leaving for the NFL draft was put to rest as he announced through the university that he would return for another season. The 6-foot-6 prospect was likely a second round pick, according to ESPN college football and NFL draft analyst Kevin Weidl, but could develop into a first-round pick with another year in the weight room and another season under Saban.

Lacy, who played all 14 games this season despite nagging injuries, rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was named offensive MVP of the BCS title game Monday after rushing for 140 yards and scoring twice in Alabama's 42-14 win over Notre Dame.

The Louisiana native, who waited for his turn behind 2011 Heisman finalist Trent Richardson and 2009 Heisman Award winner Mark Ingram, is the sixth-ranked draft-eligible running back, according to Scouts Inc. He leaves a talented true freshman in T.J. Yeldon to take his place, along with a bevy of other elite prospects.

"It's been an amazing experience here," Lacy said. "Now is the right time to make the move to the National Football League."

Fluker, who started out the season on the Outland and Lombardi award watch lists, blocked for six 100-yard rushers this season and a total of 21 in his career at Alabama. The 6-foot-6, 335-pound redshirt junior was part of arguably the best offensive line in college football, producing the school's first pair of 1,000-yard tailbacks.

Fluker's departure -- along with seniors Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack -- leaves Alabama with two returning starters on the offensive line. Saban understands junior guard Anthony Steen and sophomore tackle Cyrus Kouandjio don't have the name recognition of the others, but he doesn't expect that to last long.

"I think, you look through the history of the last four or five years here, the older guys that have been starting for a longer time tend to get more of the accolades and the attention," Saban said before the BCS title game. "Probably in some ways rightfully so, for what Fluker and Barrett Jones and Chance (Warmack) have done in terms of their starts and their body of work and the long time they've been playing.

"I think Anthony Steen and Cyrus are two guys that have played very, very well all year long, and their time is coming. They're going to be the guys who get featured next year as being the most experienced guys, who have the most starts, who have played with the most consistency, that people will be looking at as guys who probably will receive a lot of accolades."