Alabama coach Nick Saban and his staff are hitting the recruiting trail hard this week, but the Crimson Tide's coaching staff may have done its best work by getting some important juniors to return to Tuscaloosa for another year.
As it stands, Alabama is only losing Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and star defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson early to the NFL draft. While those two are certainly big losses, things didn't get nearly as bad for the Tide as they could have been.
Tight end O.J. Howard announced his intentions to remain in school via his Twitter account on Monday afternoon.
"8+8=16! Add One More To That 17 Baby!!! #RoadTo17 #RollTide #OneMore" Howard posted on Monday.
Along with Howard, safety Eddie Jackson, defensive end Jonathan Allen, outside linebackers Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson, middle linebacker Reuben Foster and kicker Adam Griffith are all returning for their final seasons in Tuscaloosa.
Howard, Jackson, Allen, Williams and Foster are third-year juniors while Anderson and Griffith are fourth-year players.
From a passing game standpoint, this could be the most prolific unit under Saban on paper.
Howard, Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, Robert Foster and Cam Sims were all rated four- or five-star prospects coming out of high school.
Howard, Ridley and Stewart combined for 2,347 of Alabama's 3,407 receiving yards and 13 of the Tide's 22 receiving touchdowns.
Foster and Sims should be completely healthy coming off shoulder and knee injuries, respectively. The Tide will also have receivers Derek Kief, Daylon Charlot and Raheem Falkins competing for snaps.
Replacing Henry and Kenyan Drake will be a tough task, but Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris and whichever five-star prospect the Tide nabs this recruiting cycle should provide some stability in the running game.
Whomever the Tide's next quarterback is will have plenty of weapons to work with.
Defensively, Allen, Williams and Anderson were the Tide's top-three sacks artists while Jackson was the team's leader in takeaways.
Allen, a native of Leesburg, VA., was second in the SEC and tied for seventh nationally with 12 sacks. He recorded 36 total tackles while leading the Tide with 14.5 tackles for loss.
By retaining Allen, the Tide's defensive line returns a two-year starter who can rush the passer from the edge and inside while also holding up against the run.
In a breakout junior campaign, Williams had 10.5 sacks which ranked him inside the top-15 nationally. Williams starred on third down as a pass rushing specialist, but returned to develop into a more complete linebacker.
Anderson finished third on the team with 11.5 tackles for loss, including six sacks. The Daphne, Ala. native had 37 total tackles.
In his first year playing safety, Jackson finished the year tied for No. 7 in the nation with six interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns. Jackson intercepted a pass in the national championship, and was named the defensive player of the game.
With so many juniors coming back, Alabama's losses to graduation may not be as big of a blow as many thought.
Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed, Cyrus Jones, Geno-Matias Smith, Denzell Devall and Dillon Lee are the defensive starters moving on with Jabriel Washington and D.J. Pettway being key reserves.
Replacing Ragland won't be easy, but Foster projects to be the next man up at middle linebacker. Foster, who finished the year second on the team with 73 tackles, has two years of starting under experience. Shaun Dion Hamilton and Keith Holcombe should step into bigger roles at inside linebacker next year as well.
At cornerback, Minkah Fitzpatrick could step into Jones role opposite Marlon Humphrey. Fitzpatrick started at nickel defensive back this season, but has the coverage skills to play outside full time.
Along the defensive line, Daron Payne, Da'Shawn Hand and others should play bigger roles.
Williams, Anderson, Rashaan Evans and others are due for more snaps at outside linebacker.
Offensively, Drake, quarterback Jake Coker, Richard Mullaney, center Ryan Kelly and right tackle Dominick Jackson must be replaced, but there is plenty of talent behind them.
At quarterback, Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett and January enrollee Jalen Hurts will battle to replace Coker. Rising junior J.C. Hassenauer projects to be next in line at center. Hassenauer served as Kelly's backup this past season.
As it has been the case during Saban's tenure, talent won't be an issue for Alabama next season. Alabama has a crop of redshirt freshman along with what should be another top recruiting class who could make names for themselves next season.
Follow Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett on Twitter @Marq_Burnett.