TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama will lose four players early to the NFL draft with safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan deciding to forego their senior seasons.
During Nick Saban's tenure, 13 players have left school early for the draft with 11 being drafted in the first round. Glen Coffee (third round) and Eddie Lacy (second round) were the only two not taken in the first round.
"I'd like to commend these young men who have had a fantastic career here at The University of Alabama," Saban said Thursday. "They've done a wonderful job representing this institution, themselves, and this football program. They've been a part of winning two national championships, 10-win seasons each year they have been here, and always been ranked in the top 10. I know it's difficult for each and everyone of them to make decisions. They all love The University of Alabama.
"They have to make a business decision about their future, what is best for their future."
Kouandjio and Clinton-Dix are projected first round picks by most draft experts. Kouandjio and Clinton-Dix are ranked 23rd and 25th, respectively, on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s projections, which doesn't factor in team needs.
Kouandjio and Clinton-Dix are third-year juniors and haven't received their degrees.
Kouandjio is the fourth-ranked offensive tackle according to ESPN.com. Kouandjio said he received a first round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. For Kouandjio, the most difficult part of this decision was telling his brother, Arie who started next to him at left guard this season. While Kouandjio didn't provide any details of the conversation, it said it was "very emotional."
"It was emotional, but I don't want to talk about it," Kouandjio said. "I had to kind of exclude my emotions and use my logic."
Clinton-Dix is the top safety prospect. Clinton-Dix, who missed two games because of suspension, was fourth on the team with 52 total tackles. He also had two interceptions and 3.5 tackles for loss. He also said he received a first round grade. Clinton-Dix said his suspension and injury "most definitely" factored into his decision.
"The suspension was my fault, a bad decision on my hands that I made," Clinton-Dix said. "I was thankful and fortunate enough for the NCAA to appeal it and do my two-game suspension (so I could) be back with my team. Also, the knee injury was a scare. Thank God it wasn't anything big. What if I decided to come back and I break my neck or something? Then I can't play ball anymore. That definitely played a role in it."
If Clinton-Dix is taken in the first round, it will be the third straight year Alabama has had a defensive back taken in the opening round of the draft (Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick in 2012, and Dee Milliner in 2013).
Hubbard is among the top 10 outside linebacker prospects, according to ESPN.com. Hubbard, a fourth-year junior, flirted with leaving early after last season. He received his degree in December.
Hubbard's parents, Jerome and Cassandra Hubbard, were on hand for the announcement. Both are retired military and said they have stressed the importance of education since he was young. Adrian is the first male Hubbard to graduate college.
"Like I used to tell Adrian, 'You can be dumb, but you can't be a dumb jock'," Jerome said. "In other words, if you want to play sports, you must maintain your grades. That was put on the table for him at a very young age and he's followed that. We're excited and blessed that he stayed with the program."
On the year, Hubbard had 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks compared to 41 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2012. Since he graduated, Hubbard is eligible to play in the Senior Bowl, but hasn't looked into the process yet. Hubbard said his review had him being drafted anywhere from the second to fourth rounds.
"It doesn't matter what kind of grade they give you," Hubbard said. "You still have to go out there and present yourself with a great deal of effort. You have to know how to work hard and always present yourself in the right manner."
Pagan, a third-year junior, is considered to be the seventh-best defensive end prospect in this class. In his first year as a starter, Pagan had 34 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Pagan said he received a third round grade with a few saying he could be taken in second round. Pagan noted that he would have returned if his evaluation showed anything lower than the third round. Pagan suffered a season-ending knee injury during his senior year of high school and at the time, wondered if he'd ever play football again.
"The biggest factor for me was being able to leave my dream," Pagan said. "Being able to actually play professional football when I thought I would never be able to play football again. It was one of those things that really pushed me towards coming out and my family understood that. They only wanted my happiness."
Last season, the Tide lost three players early to the NFL draft. Cornerback Dee Milliner (ninth overall, New York Jets) and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker (11th, San Diego Chargers) were both taken in the first round while Lacy was drafted in the second round (61st, Green Bay Packers).
Saban has said he doesn't advise players to leave early if they don't receive a first-round grade.