Terrell Lewis and Trevon Diggs have played their last football for the University of Alabama.
UA coach Nick Saban confirmed in his post-practice press conference Monday that the starting outside linebacker and cornerback, respectively, will sit out the Citrus Bowl against Michigan. Lewis’ decision is not a surprise, as the redshirt junior went through Senior Day festivities against Western Carolina, suggesting his decision to enter the 2020 NFL Draft was already made.
“Every guy’s got a choice and decision to make, and we certainly respect and understand their decision and wish them well in what they choose to do,” Saban said.
“I try to get guys to make business decisions about what they’re going to do. I kind of get it if they’re going to be a high first-round draft pick: the money, versus how you can protect yourself and insure yourself, they make a business decision that says the risk is not worth the reward of playing in the game. But if you’re not in that position, you have an opportunity to showcase your talents and try to impress people with how you play in the game. That’s what I told those guys and it’s their choice.”
For Lewis, his one mostly healthy season was enough to prove a point to NFL franchises. He ended the regular season with the team lead in sacks (7 1/2) and quarterback hurries (16), plus his 11 1/2 tackles for a loss just 1/2 behind Anfernee Jennings.
Injuries kept Lewis out of all but four games in 2017, but three of those games were the Iron Bowl and the College Football Playoff. Lewis had seven tackles and a sack in the national championship win over Georgia.
He missed the entire 2018 season and came back for 2019 on a mission, notching at least one tackle for a loss in the first six games he played. (He missed the Southern Miss game.)
Lewis ends his career 58 tackles, 14 1/2 for a loss, eight sacks, three pass deflections and a forced fumble, all in 26 games played. Lewis came to Alabama as a four-star from St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C., where he was rated as a top 100 prospect.
When Lewis was out, he was replaced by redshirt sophomore Christopher Allen, who was in Lewis’ place in the media viewing periods of Monday’s practice.
Diggs, a senior, was projected to be the No. 11 pick in the draft in The Athletic’s mock draft on Dec. 4. Diggs leaves Alabama with four career interceptions, three of them this year, and two defensive touchdowns in 2019 alone. He broke up eight passes this season, as well, and recovered two fumbles.
In Monday’s practice, Josh Jobe was in Diggs’ place alongside Patrick Surtain II as a starting cornerback.
The offensive weapons that could have followed Diggs’ and Lewis’ suit did not. Running back Najee Harris, left tackle Alex Leatherwood, right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and the trio of wide receivers — Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III — were all practicing on Monday, in addition to safety Xavier McKinney. Jeudy tweeted his intent to play in the Citrus Bowl over the weekend.
Other injury notes
UA will be down two defensive starters with Diggs and Lewis starting the next chapters of their football careers, but they could be down another one.
Saban said freshman nose guard D.J. Dale has not responded well to treatment on his knee injury, making him doubtful for the Citrus Bowl. The injury also kept Dale out of the Western Carolina and Auburn games.
“We’re going to explore other protocols to try to get him better,” Saban said.
The Citrus Bowl could be a return for starting tight end Miller Forristall, whose throat injury kept him out for the final month of the regular season. As long as Forristall responds well to the activity and contact, Saban expects him to play against Michigan.
The same cannot be said for freshman running back Trey Sanders. Sanders’ foot injury in the preseason kept him out for the entire regular season, but he made his return to the practice field Monday in a black non-contact jersey. Saban said Sanders is cleared for on-field work, but, “we do not feel that he’s a guy who will be ready to play in the game.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or email@example.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson