TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With Nick Saban calling it "sort of a tradition," the University of Alabama football team held its annual press conference to announce which players had decided to declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft on Friday afternoon.
Junior running back Josh Jacobs, junior tight end Irv Smith Jr., junior tackle Jonah Williams and redshirt sophomore Quinnen Williams all announced they've decided to forego their remaining eligibility with the Crimson Tide and go pro.
The deadline to declare is Monday. Safety Deionte Thompson is thought to still be undecided about whether to enter the draft.
Saban usually encourages players to leave school early if they're projected to be be a first-round draft choice, or if they probably can't improve their draft stock by returning for another year.
Quinnen Williams and Jonah Williams, who were both finalist for the Outland Trophy for best interior lineman (which was won by the nose tackle), are projected to be high first-round selections.
For example, in his latest mock draft, Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com projected Quinnen Williams to be the top pick by Arizona Cardinals, and Jonah Williams to go ninth to Buffalo.
"This is probably going to sound like a Grammy acceptance speech but I just have a lot of thank yous because this place really, it's an incredible program that coach Saban's built," said Jonah Williams, "but it runs because of all the people that work in [it]."
Quinnen Williams, who switched from defensive end before the season and landed a starting job, stuck to a script that he had written while making his announcement.
"My three years at Alabama have been some of the best of my life," he said. "During my time at the university, I've grown into not only a better football player but also a better person."
Smith was not in attendance as he's attending the wedding of former teammate Hale Hentges this weekend.
"This decision has definitely been tough for me," Jacobs said when "winging" his announcement. "Even on the ride here, I still didn't know exactly what choice I wanted to make. I've decided to go ahead and declare to the 2019 draft.
"I want to thank the program. I want to thank coach Saban for taking the chance on me. A lot of people didn't."
Still upset about a report Thursday night that he had decided to leave Alabama, Jacobs declined to talk with reporters.
Jacobs finished the 2018 season with 1,315 all-purpose yards and 15 total touchdowns. He was third in team rushing with 640 yards and 11 touchdowns while catching 20 passes for 247 yards and three scores.
Jacobs also had 14 kickoff returns for 428 yards and a touchdown.
In his three seasons at Alabama, he rushed for 1,491 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Smith Jr. earned second team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association. He finished fourth on the team with 44 receptions for 710 yards and seven touchdowns, a Crimson Tide record for a tight end.
Alabama has now had 34 players leave early for the NFL under head coach Nick Saban.
The 2019 NFL Draft will take place April 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn.