FOOTBALL

Alabama football cornerback Eli Ricks declares for NFL Draft 2023

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Make that five juniors headed to the NFL Draft in 2023 from Alabama football.

Cornerback Eli Ricks became the latest from the Crimson Tide to declare early for the NFL. He announced his decision Tuesday, a day after quarterback Bryce Young, linebacker Will Anderson Jr., running back Jahmyr Gibbs and defensive back Brian Branch all decided the same.

Ricks spent one season with Alabama after he transferred from LSU, where he played two seasons.

Ricks thanked former LSU coach Ed Orgeron and the LSU staff before thanking Alabama's staff, too.

"I want to thank coaches Nick Saban, T Rob, Pete Golding and the entire Alabama staff that accepted me in as one of their own," Ricks wrote in his announcement post. "While here at Alabama, the staff has supported, pushed and developed me into the mature young man that I am today. I have learned just as many lessons off the field as on. The Alabama program exceeded my expectations and tested every limit that I set for myself."

Ricks didn't see much time early in the season. He said after the Sugar Bowl that learning the system and a couple of injuries early in the season delayed his start.

Once he had a chance to start against Mississippi State in October, he ran with it. He made five starts down the stretch and tallied 13 tackles with four pass breakups, per ESPN.

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“It was more difficult unlearning things than learning things," Ricks said. "We had a lot of plays that LSU called similar calls, but we did a lot of different things. Just unlearning things was probably the hardest part."

Ricks was a freshman All-America selection at LSU in 2020, a season during which he intercepted four passes and scored on two pick-sixes. A midseason injury limited him in the 2021 season before he decided to transfer to the Crimson Tide ahead of the 2022 season.

His departure means Alabama will have only one returning starter from the secondary that was with the first-team defense in the Sugar Bowl: cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry. Terrion Arnold also will be back. He had the starting cornerback job before Ricks took it over.

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News/USA TODAY Network. Reach him via email: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly.