TUSCALOOSA | Speculation on which University of Alabama underclassmen might be considering an early jump to the National Football League was reduced by one Monday when right tackle D.J. Fluker said he would return to UA for his fourth-year junior season in 2012.
"I know there have been a few stories and different things out on the message boards lately about me possibly leaving school early. I want to go ahead and put all of that to rest and make it clear that my intentions are to stay in school," Fluker said. "At my position, I still have a lot to learn in order to mold myself into the best offensive tackle I can be."
Most underclassmen who declare for the NFL Draft do so as juniors, but Fluker would have been eligible as a sophomore because, as a redshirted player, is meets the NFL criteria because he is three years removed from high school.
"I've learned a lot from my coaches in my three years here and I feel like I can only get better with more experience," Fluker added. "The most important reason is to finish my degree. Right now, I am on track to graduate next December and that's one of the things I promised my mother that I would do when I decided to come to the University of Alabama."
Fluker has started at the right tackle position for two years for the Crimson Tide. If left tackle Barrett Jones also returns to Alabama for his final season, the Crimson Tide would return four starters on its offensive line in 2012. Center William Vlachos, a fifth-year senior, will play his final game for the Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans on Jan. 9.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.