TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior cornerback Kareem Jackson has decided to forego his senior year and declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
The deadline to file paperwork with the league is today (Friday).
Although Coach Nick Saban doesn't encourage players to leave unless they're expected to be a first-round selection, Jackson is projected by most to be a late second-round pick.
"I've thought long and hard about this decision and I have decided to declare for this year's NFL Draft," Jackson said in a release. "I want to thank all of the coaches at Alabama, especially Coach Saban and Coach (Kirby) Smart, for making me the player and the person I am today. I also want to thank my teammates and everyone in the Alabama family for making my three years here the best of my life. Most importantly, I'd like to thank my family for all of their love and support.
"I set a goal and made a promise to myself and my parents to finish my degree so I definitely plan on doing that. I look forward to coming back to visit everyone because the University of Alabama has become my second home and my second family."
Jackson started all but one game during his three years, and finished his career with 159 tackles, eight for a loss, five interceptions and 29 passes broken up.
His lone interception this season resulted in his longest return, 79 yards at Ole Miss.
The native of Macon, Ga., spent at year at Fork Union Military Academy before signing with Alabama. He's the second player from Saban's initial signing class of 2007 to leave early, joining Rolando McClain, the Butkus Award winner as linebacker of the year.
Last year Jackson was the winner of the teams' Unsung Hero Award.
Jackson's departure means Alabama will need to replace its top three cornerbacks from the national championship team that finished second in the nation in passing efficiency defense (87.67, barely behind Nebraska's 87.28), with sophomore safety Mark Barron the lone returning starter in the secondary.
The only other returning defensive starters are sophomore weakside linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who is coming off knee surgery, and his replacement true freshman Nico Johnson -- although defensive end Marcell Dareus started the first four games of the season for Brandon Deaderick.
Johnson played in 12 games this past season, with two starts while Alabama frequently lined up with an extra defensive back in nickel formation.