Christopher Smith

Alabama, Auburn Lose Players To NFL

Created on Jan. 10, 2014 3:13 AM EST

As expected when your state fields teams ranked in the top three into December, the state of Alabama will lose several players to early entry.

Auburn left tackle already announced his decision Tuesday, but running back Tre Mason waited until Thursday.

"It's been my dream since I was young, and I'm a dream chaser," Mason told reporters. "I'm just trying to make a dream into a reality."

Mason topped 100 rushing yards in nine of his last 11 games, including 164 against Alabama in the Iron Bowl, 304 against Missouri in the SEC championship and 195 against Florida State in the national championship. The running back said the NFL's draft advisory committee gave him a third-round grade.

"The (NFL) is getting one of the tougher individuals in all of college football," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told reporters. "He can run between the tackles. He has great courage. He played his best games in the biggest games, and he's a good receiver out of the backfield, also."

The Tigers return eight starters on offense, including quarterback Nick Marshall, but lose two of the most important players. However, it wouldn't be an Alabama football school if it didn't have other options in the backfield: Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant will carry the ball next year. They combined for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns themselves during the 2013 season.

Rival Alabama will lose four players to the NFL draft early: left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, whom Oklahoma abused in the Sugar Bowl, safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, linebacker Adrian Hubbard and defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan.

The Tide also lost offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to Michigan. Defensive end Ed Stinson, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and cornerback Deion Belue have used up their NCAA eligibility as well as the Tide loses six starters on defense, but inside linebacker Trey DePriest will return for his senior season and Vinnie Sunseri is expected to return from injury.

"They've been a part of winning two national championships and 10-win seasons each and every year that they've been here, always been ranked in the Top 10," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of those departing for the NFL during a press conference Thursday. "Not only have they done well on the football field, Adrian has already graduated and each one of these other guys who have only been here three years are all on track to graduate.

"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."

Despite the losses, both schools should enter the season ranked in the Top 10.

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