Let the hunt for 17 begin #WonAsOne— Jonathan Allen (@jonathanallenj) January 16, 2016
The second player returning is junior tight end OJ Howard, who had a career day on the biggest stage against Clemson, catching five passes for a total of 206 yards, and a couple of touchdowns.
Let's break down what this means for the Crimson Tide next season, starting with OJ Howard's return.
I expect one of the strengths of Alabama's team next year will be the receiving core, starting with record-breaking sophomore receiver Calvin Ridley. ArDarius Stewart also returns, and Robert Foster will return from injury, which should be huge for the Crimson Tide.
Now what if you add in a mismatching nightmare of a tight end in OJ Howard who ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash to the mix of weapons for whomever takes of at quarterback in 2016, and he'll have some targets to work with, and possibly be explosive. I look forward to seeing how Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin decide to utilize him this year after a surprisingly limited role in the offense this season. Even coach Nick Saban expressed this saying that Howard "Should have been more involved all year long."
Now let's flip to the other side of the ball where you have a defensive lineman who led one of the most talented lines in the history of college football in sacks. Many NFL scouts projected that Allen would go in the top 20 picks in the draft, but for whatever reason he decided to roll with the Tide in 2016 and it will make a massive impact in the Tide's journey to 17 this year.
Let's look at how Allen contributed in 2016 statistically.
He totaled 36 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks. He's the type of player who can disrupt an offense on his own, and with help, can be a beast, as we saw last season.
Don't try to believe that Allen won't have significant help on the line alongside him. Despite our losses there, we still have quality players coming back, such as DJ Pettway, Dalvin Tomlinson, Da'Shawn Hand, and a blazing fast edge rusher in Rashaan Evans. In addition to this, there's also one more NFL prospect returning to the Tide that will make a great impact rushing the passer. Tim Williams has opted to return and my advice is to watch out. He's a player with enormous potential that could be a featured part of our defense next year.
The bottom line is that despite the players who are graduating, or going pro, the Tide will be in contention for a 17th title next year.