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November 14, 2012TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama could have at least three players selected in the first round of next spring's National Football League Draft according to rankings by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper said Wednesday on a conference call that he has Crimson Tide guard Chance Warmack ranked seventh overall, defensive back Dee Milliner ranked 11th and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker rated 25th.
Milliner is a junior and could return to UA for his senior year.
"He's got a decision to make," Kiper said of Milliner.
Fluker is a redshirt junior who is in his fourth season on the UA roster. Kiper also said that running back Eddie Lacy, another junior who may or may not opt to make himself draft-eligible is "another guy that has NFL ability, no question about that," but did not project what round he would expect Lacy to be picked.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley, another junior, is "in that second-round discussion" if he forgoes his senior season, Kiper said. Kiper rates linebacker Nico Johnson as a middle-round pick, safety Robert Lester in the middle to late rounds of the seven-round draft and tight end Michael Williams a later-round pick. He said that senior nose guard Jesse Williams will be a highly-sought player by teams that run a 3-4 defensive scheme "early in the draft."
Center Barrett Jones, who won the Outland Trophy last year playing left tackle, struggled in last weekend's loss to Texas A&M, Kiper said.
Kiper projects Jones to be drafted in the third or fourth round.
Smith to see action
After seeing a bit of playing time at the Star position against Texas A&M, UA freshman defensive back Geno Smith is looking at more of the same Saturday against Western Carolina with cornerback John Fulton questionable with turf toe.
"Geno has made nice progress this year, and to be honest with you I wish we could have played him (more)," said UA coach Nick Saban. "He's played some, but now that he needs to play you always sit back and wish maybe I'd have played him more somewhere along the line so he could have gotten a little more experience."
Previous to Saturday, Smith's action has come largely in the second half of games well in hand for Alabama, when the entire second team defense has played.
"Sometimes with young guys they kind of, all the sudden the light goes on and they got it, and they get it, and they start to play with confidence again and feel like they know what they're doing, and they quit making a bunch of mistakes," Saban added. "That happened with Geno in the last couple of weeks."
The last time Western Carolina played Alabama was the 2007 debut of UA coach Nick Saban. Terry Grant scored a 47-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the Saban era on the way to a 52-6 win.
"I think there was eight times in the game last week that we weren't lined up and they ran a fastball play against us. That's just not good. It's not good coaching. It's not good for the players to have a chance to be successful and execute." - UA coach Nick Saban.
UA quarterback AJ McCarron is among the final five candidates for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation's top quarterback. ... He also was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Walter Camp Award. Other Camp Award semifinalists from the Southeastern Conference are Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Chase Goodbread contributed to this report.
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