The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 10, 2014

Kouandjio, Clinton-Dix lead Bama players leaving


Associated Press

— TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — All-America left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are leading a contingent of Alabama players leaving early for the NFL.

Those two Crimson Tide stars were joined in announcing their departures Thursday by linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan.

Clinton-Dix and Kouandjio are widely projected as first-round picks. Hubbard and Pagan also could be early- to mid-round selections.

"They've done a wonderful job representing this institution, their families and this football program," Tide coach Nick Saban. "They've been a part of at least two national championships. I know it's difficult for each and every one of these players to make decisions. They all love the University of Alabama and they have to make a difficult business decision about what is best for their future."

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Kouandjio was a first-team Associated Press All-American. He said he received a first-round grade from the NFL draft advisory committee.

"Everybody has a personal situation with their family," Kouandjio said. "We have to put everything — my degree, and all these things like family — it all comes together and you have to make a decision and stick with it."

Clinton-Dix had 52 tackles and two interceptions. He missed two games on suspension after accepting a short-term loan from an assistant strength and conditioning coach who's no longer employed by the university.

"I bought into this system since I was in high school," Clinton-Dix said. "Coach Saban told me if I came here and I worked hard, I would be a great player and I could be three and done and go conquer my dreams and whatnot. And I feel like I've done that. He told me I did, said I worked hard, and he also told me if I stayed, I could graduate and win all types of awards. It has ups and downs in my decision-making, but I think I made the right decision."

Alabama has had 11 first-round picks in the last four years, more than any other team. Eleven of the 13 players who have left early under Saban were first-rounders.

Hubbard said he's the first male in his family to get a college degree, graduating in business management in December.

"If I wouldn't have gotten my degree, I would have come back," he said.

Pagan said he got a third-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board, and he would have come back if it was lower.

"It was very tough," he said. "It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life. Even harder than deciding to come to college here and picking my school. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do."