Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, 3 other Alabama junior starters say they're heading to the NFL Alabama defensive back Landon Collins (26) celebrates an INT with Alabama defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan (8) during the first quarter of the Alabama vs. Oklahoma Sugar Bowl NCAA football game Thursday, January 2, 2014, at the Superdome in New Orleans, La. (Vasha Huntemail@example.com)
-- Among the Alabama players on the fence about whether to return for one more year, none are coming back.
Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan are all headed to the NFL, the quartet announced Thursday. It's the first time Alabama has had more than three juniors leave early for the NFL during the Nick Saban era.
Kouandjio, Clinton-Dix and Pagan leave after three seasons at Alabama. Hubbard, who redshirted his first season and graduated in December, leaves after four years.
"These players are always going to be a part of the Alabama tradition, they're always going to be a part of the Alabama football family because they've done just a marvelous job in their careers here of being great ambassadors of this university and for our football program," Saban said. "We appreciate them more than you know for all they've done."
Kouandjio and Clinton-Dix are among the top-rated players at their positions and are anticipated to be first-round selections. Hubbard and Pagan are among the top-10 ranked players at their respective positions, but would likely slip into the second or third rounds, according to most NFL Draft projections.
All four likely will receive invitations to next month's NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
"We want everyone to know that we support each and every one of these guys and what they aspire to do," Saban said. "They've done such a wonderful job for us and we certainly appreciate all that they've done."
Kouandjio started every game over the past two seasons at left tackle and was named a first-team FWAA All-American after his junior season. Though he struggled in the Sugar Bowl, Kouandjio's anticipated to be among the first four tackles selected.
Kouandjio thanked an endless line of Alabama players, coaches, former coaches and trainers and called Crimson Tide fans "the best in America" during an emotional announcement.
"My experience through this program was awesome," Kouandjio said. "I've made a lot of friends, learned a lot."
Clinton-Dix, considered by some to be the top-ranked defensive back in this year's draft class, landed a spot on four of the five major All-American teams. Despite missing two games because of a suspension, Clinton-Dix was among the team leaders in tackles (52) and interceptions (two).
"It's been a big story, a big book here," Clinton-Dix said. "It's been a big experience for me through the ups and downs."
Hubbard's production dipped a bit after a breakout sophomore season, but his size and speed are attractive to NFL scouts. He had 33 tackles, 5.5 of which went for a loss.
His parents, Cassandra and Jerome, attended Thursday's press conference. He said his mind was made up when he graduated in December.
"This opportunity I've been given here has been one of the best opportunities that I've gotten in life," Hubbard said.
Pagan started all but one game in 2013, transitioning from a second-team role to a constant cog on Alabama's defensive line. He finished with 34 tackles, 3.5 of which went for a loss.
"The hardest part of this decision was trying to please everyone," Pagan said. "Some people would want me to stay and some that wanted me to go."
In the past five years, Alabama has had at least two players with at least one year of eligibility remaining leave early for the draft. AL.com coverage | 2013 Alabama Andrew Gribble stories, opinion, news Thank you for subscribing. You should receive your first newsletter within 24 hours. To view and subscribe to any of our other newsletters, please .
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