Three Alabama juniors announce NFL draft intentions

As expected, two of Alabama’s top juniors announced they’d be turning pro at a news conference this afternoon in Tuscaloosa.

Running back Trent Richardson, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will enter the NFL draft a year early. Each could potentially go in the first round.

Dont’a Hightower will also go pro, though he did not participate in the afternoon news conference. Technically a junior because of a medial redshirt in 2009, Hightower participated in senior day activities Nov. 19 against Georgia Southern.

Richardson and Kirkpatrick just completed their third seasons.

Richardson, the third-place finisher in Heisman Trophy balloting, ended his Tide career with a 34-yard touchdown run in Alabama’s 21-0 beating of LSU in the BCS title game. The Pensacola, Fla., native ran 283 times for 1,679 yards in his final season.

He’s expected to go in the top half of the April draft, as will Kirkpatrick.

The Gadsden City product made an impact this season without intercepting a pass. He added open-field tackling to his lock-down coverage skills while forcing two fumbles at Penn State. Kirkpatrick also defended nine passes and broke up nine others.

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