With the 2011 season officially over, all attention now turns to potential turnover within the coaching staff and the existing roster, and for several draft-eligible players, don't expect there to be much more silence. Rising senior safety Robert Lester may be returning, but Trent Richardson and others will be announcing their immediate plans with respect to the NFL Draft with a press conference tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. central in Tuscaloosa. Per Izzy Gould:
Doak Walker Award winner Trent Richardson will announce Thursday if he plans to enter the NFL draft or return to Alabama.
Alabama called a 1 p.m. press conference regarding an announcement with its juniors. Those weighing their options include linebacker Dont'a Hightower, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and safety Robert Lester.
For what it's worth Richardson claims to have not made a definite decision as of this writing, but clearly he is expected to enter the NFL Draft and anything to the contrary would be a major surprise. Dont'a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrick don't present the same kind of certainty, but even so both have likely played their final snap for Alabama. With two national championship rings in hand and millions of dollars awaiting them in the NFL, it makes little sense for any of these three to return for another tour of duty in Tuscaloosa. We'll have an open thread on RBR tomorrow for the presser, but in any event that should be the expectation going in.
Meanwhile, we do have some developments on the coaching front, first and foremost coming with Sal Sunseri, who according to the Knoxville News Sentinel is interviewing for the vacant defensive coordinator position at Tennessee. This may just be used as leverage to get a higher salary at Alabama, but in the short term it is his best chance at a promotion given the continued presence of Kirby Smart in Tuscaloosa and at the least he figures to have an offer in hand from Derek Dooley and company. We'll see what happens from here.
Likewise, the vacant offensive coordinator position at Alabama is starting to churn out some names. Former New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who "resigned" from the Jets this morning, was reportedly in Tuscaloosa to discuss the vacancy, and ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter reported this evening that Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator and former Arizona State head coach Dirk Koetter interviewed for the position today. Nothing is a given, of course, but I would expect a hire sooner rather than later.
Finally, those prospects of the 2012 recruiting class which are enrolling early have begun to arrive on campus. Per al.com, linebacker Dillon Lee and nose guard Alphonse Taylor both arrived earlier in the week, and Daphne teammates Ryan Anderson and T.J. Yeldon arrived on campus today, the latter of which ended any hopes Auburn had of re-flipping the talented tailback prospect. Wide receivers Chris Black and Amari Cooper are expected sometime later this week. Lastly, JUCO defensive back Deion Belue posted on Twitter earlier that he moved to Tuscaloosa today, and there has been some discussion of him finally signing his letter of intent, but his status moving forward is a bit uncertain at the moment as we have still received nothing definitive indicating that he has been cleared academically and accepted by UA Admissions.