Published January 07, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama running back Mark Ingram, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and wide receiver Julio Jones said Friday they are leaving early to the NFL draft.
However, linebacker Dont'a Hightower said he will return for his final year.
Coach Nick Saban said the three departing players were part of a group that's been as successful as any in the nation over three years. Ingram, Dareus and Jones all are projected to be drafted in the first round.
"Each one of these guys, these young men, have made a very good decision based on all the facts that are available to them relative to what their future should be," Saban said.
Ingram won the Heisman during Alabama's 2009 national championship season, but was hampered part of this season as he recovered from knee surgery. Ingram said he was leaving Alabama without any regrets.
"It's been the best experience of my life," Ingram said during a news conference. "I will always bleed crimson."
The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Dareus was the star in Alabama's championship win over Texas and had 34 tackles this year as a premier pass rusher. Dareus never expected to be in a position to leave school early for the NFL.
"I had no idea I would have excelled the way I did," he said.
Jones led all Crimson Tide receivers with 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns this season, both more than twice as many as 'Bama's No. 2 receiver, Marquis Maze.
Saban indicated more players could be on the way out, but he didn't name names.
"We still have guys who are trying to make decisions," he said.