Five Crimson Tide Players Invited to Senior Bowl
The annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama is set to kick off in two weeks on January 30 and will feature five Alabama Crimson Tide alumni: long snapper Thomas Fletcher, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, guard Deonte Brown, center Landon Dickerson and wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
There is still time for a few roster changes due to injury and rescinded invites, but as it stands these players will be the representatives in this year's showcase from the 2020 college football national champions. It will be the first time since 2015 the Crimson Tide will not have a defensive player on the Senior Bowl roster.
A number of changes are in place for the 2021 event. The Senior Bowl is doing away with the North vs. South style matchup in favor of an American vs. National matchup. Seeing as the north/south division was never quite clear and often saw a mixture due to player availability, this change makes sense and should be here to stay. The Carolina Panthers will be coaching the American team while the Miami Dolphins will coach the National squad. Only the three quarterbacks for each team have been announced for each roster.
The venue is also changing. Ladd-Peoples Stadium served the Senior Bowl from 1951 through 2020. However, the South Alabama football program has a brand-new on-campus stadium, Hancock Whitney Stadium, which will be the new home for the game from now on.
As for the Crimson Tide alumni headed to Mobile, each left an indelible mark on the program, creating a legendary status in his own right.
Thomas Fletcher, LS
Unique in his own way, Thomas Fletcher is an unexpectedly popular Crimson Tide player, seeing praise and support not often found at the long snapper position. Whether it be due to his social media following or his perfect routine, Fletcher captured the attention and appreciation of Crimson Tide fans across the country.
Fletcher famously snapped in 55 straight games for Alabama and was perfect in every opportunity. He snapped exclusively for punts his freshman season in 2017 and assumed full responsibilities from 2018 on. While stats are certainly difficult to come by, Fletcher found a few opportunities, recording a tackle in the 2018 Iron Bowl, the 2019 opener against Duke and recovered a fumble against Missouri in 2020 that set the Crimson Tide up for a field goal.
A new award was created for long snappers in 2019 in honor of the first true-long snapper to be drafted into the NFL, Patrick Mannelly. Fletcher was named the second winner of the award thanks to his perfection and sustainability. He was also named an All-American by Rubio Long Snapping.
The NFL Draft has seen at least one long snapper selected in each of the past six selection events, a streak Fletcher no-doubt looks to continue. He would be the first from Alabama.
Deonte Brown, Guard
Deonte Brown played in 60 games during his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide, all at guard, starting 38 of them. Brown is known for his size and tenacity in the trenches and has seen his name recognized accordingly.
As a starting member of the 2020 Crimson Tide offensive line, Brown shares in winning the Joe Moore Award presented to the nation's top offensive line unit in the country.
According to rolltide.com, Brown only missed two assignments on 757 snaps while allowing just a half-sack, one pressure, five quarterback hurries and four fouls committed.
The Draft Network ranks Brown as the 7th interior offensive lineman and the 97th player overall, setting him up to be drafted somewhere in the top three or four rounds. He'll get a chance to prove his worth in practice against the likes of top-rated seniors Marvin Wilson (Florida State), Levi Onwuzurike (Washington) and Marlon Tuipulotu (USC).
Alex Leatherwood, OT
Whether at guard or at home as the left tackle, Alex Leatherwood was a staple on the offensive line all four years at Alabama. Back to back All-American honors and three years on the All-SEC teams, the 6'6", 315lb lineman is unmistakeably one of the best blind-side protectors to come through Nick Saban's program. Alongside the Joe Moore Award with his fellow linemen, Leatherwood also won the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best offensive lineman in the country.
As for his NFL Draft rankings, not everyone is sold on him being a first-round pick. During the Rose Bowl, Todd McShay said his grade for Leatherwood actually dropped this year from a second-round last year to a third this year. The Draft Network, however, ranks Leatherwood as its fifth offensive tackle prospect and gives him a first-round grade as the 27th overall player.
With Quincy Roche (Miami) and Patrick Jones II (Pittsburgh) headlining the Senior Bowl edge rushers, Leatherwood will have to prove yet again that his skills translate to a franchise NFL left tackle.
Landon Dickerson, C
One of the most beloved players of the 2020 Crimson Tide team, Landon Dickerson's two years at Alabama have set him up for great success at the next level. As the heart and soul, as well as the protection caller, of the offensive line, there's no denying where the leadership came from in the trenches.
Alongside the Joe Moore Award, Dickerson also won the Remington Award as the nation's top center. Pro Football Focus nearly agreed, grading him as the number two center according to their metrics with a 91.5 heading into the postseason.
Dickerson launched up draft boards with his play this year, showing intelligence rivaled only by his physicality. Scouts unanimously love the way he plays, consistently putting people on the turf and rarely missing assignments.
Still, the consensus is still out on just how high he can climb. His injury history, especially his torn ACL in December, is the focal concern for scouts. Obviously, because of the knee injury, Dickerson will not participate in the Senior Bowl, however, it's possible he could be in Mobile if only to get a chance to speak with scouts and coaches.
DeVonta Smith, WR
Without a doubt the flashiest name headed to Mobile, DeVonta Smith will have one last opportunity to showcase his skills to the NFL in the Senior Bowl.
Smith will draw a ton of attention from NFL scouts as well the eyes of the media. However, Smith doesn't necessarily have a lot to prove. Most scouts and analysts consider him the top receiver in the draft. Todd McShay mocked Smith to the Miami Dolphins with the third overall pick recently, displaying the value Smith created for himself in a Heisman Trophy-winning season.
Along with the Heisman, Smith took home a ton of hardware as well as a handful of school and SEC records. Smith's statistics and awards cement him as one of the greatest receivers to ever play in the SEC and his draft stock reflects that.
Nonetheless, it's one more opportunity for fans to see Smith don the crimson helmet one last time.
The 2021 Senior Bowl can be seen on NFL Network Saturday, January 30 at 1:30 p.m. CST. The event is sold out due to COVID-19 protocols and restrictions. Tide 100.9 will be on location throughout the week, providing practice, game and press conference coverage.
Alabama Non Con Opponents