Alabama junior defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison announced Thursday in a news conference that they would be forgoing final seasons of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.
Fitzpatrick, a two-time All-American, is rated by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper as the No. 1 safety prospect, with Harrison the No. 3 prospect.
Crimson Tide junior running back Bo Scarbrough also attended the news conference after revealing Wednesday that he was bypassing his final year of eligibility, while junior receiver Calvin Ridley and junior defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne were not present. Those five players made their decisions to leave after helping Alabama win a second national championship in three seasons with Monday night's 26-23 overtime defeat of Georgia in Atlanta.
"These young men have done a fantastic job for the University of Alabama in what they've been able to accomplish on the field and the way they've represented the university and the program off the field as well," coach Nick Saban said. "They've won two SEC championships and two national championships, and they've made a tremendous contribution to the team and the team's success and the internal leadership that goes with having championship-type teams."
Alabama has had 28 players leave early for the NFL under Saban, with 14 of the previous 23 selected in the first round. Saban said Harrison and Scarbrough are scheduled to graduate in May and Fitzpatrick in August.
Fitzpatrick finished his three-year career with 171 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and nine interceptions, returning four of his interceptions for touchdowns.
"These past few years of my life have definitely been the best few years of my life," Fitzpatrick said.
Scarbrough thanked Saban for molding him into a man on and off the field, and Harrison talked about entering Tuscaloosa as a signee who was not highly rated. Harrison was a solid four-star prospect in the 2015 class, but he was lightly regarded compared to Scarbrough, Ridley, Fitzpatrick and Payne, who were five-star signees.
Alabama won this past season's national championship despite having nine players selected in the first three rounds of last year's draft. Only two of those nine — cornerback Marlon Humphrey and tackle Cam Robinson — were juniors.
"These guys will always be part of the family here, and they are always welcome back," Saban said. "One of the things that makes me happiest about our program here is how many guys come back. It gets a little crowded on the sideline sometimes, and I always want to put them in the game.
"I'm going to want to put these guys in the game someday, too."
Alabama junior defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs, who was in his first year with the Tide after transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, announced Thursday that he was returning to "try to repeat the feeling of winning a national championship." ... Secondary coach Derrick Ansley is leaving, but not for the role of defensive coordinator at Colorado State. He will be on Jon Gruden's new staff with the Oakland Raiders. ... Alabama will hold a parade for its latest national champions on Jan. 20. The parade will start at 3 p.m. EST on University Boulevard at Denny Chimes. ... WSB in Atlanta reported Thursday that Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar had his playbook stolen last Saturday in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis.
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