Even as the one that has the most to lose, Nick Saban respects the dilemma for highly thought of NFL Draft prospects playing in bowl games outside of the College Football Playoff. The pull to be with their team for a few more weeks and play a final game is at war with the risk of jeopardizing a very lucrative NFL Draft position.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy had no such dilemma.
“I had no second thoughts,” Jeudy said. “I already knew whatever bowl game we played in that I would be playing, so I didn’t really have second thoughts.”
Jeudy was the first to make it known via Twitter that he would be playing in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan, and the only one to make it known before the University of Alabama’s first bowl practice on Monday. Jeudy is unanimously projected as a first-round draft pick, in some places as high as the top 10. While UA outside linebacker Terrell Lewis and cornerback Trevon Diggs are skipping the game to start their 2020 NFL Draft prep, Jeudy is not.
“I took it as like another game so we could just get better and compete. That’s why we love to play this game, to compete,” Jeudy said. “I know some people probably think that we should sit out, but we really wasn’t listening to what other people had to say. We already know what we came here to do and we’re going to finish doing.”
Lewis and Diggs were the only ones to elect to skip the game despite several others facing the same circumstances they are. Running back Najee Harris, offensive linemen Jedrick Wills Jr. and Alex Leatherwood, safety Xavier McKinney and Jeudy’s positionmates Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith all could have skipped the Citrus Bowl, and done so justifiably, but they joined Jeudy in preparing for the game.
“We just want to establish our identity, really,” Jeudy said. “We didn’t really finish the season how we really wanted to. We just wanted to play this game and add the Bama Factor how we do.”
That intensity has been present in practice.
“Probably two practices ago the defense just destroyed us on offense,” quarterback Mac Jones said. “Those guys were getting after us every play. That was like two practices ago, and they still did great yesterday. I was like, ‘Wow, these guys are really practicing hard.’ We ended up doing fine, but you could really see that those guys were playing hard and it was just like a normal practice for them. But definitely could feel it.”
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson