Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio gave NFL scouts something to remember Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl, but it's something he'd rather forget.
The Crimson Tide's key pass protector played one of the worst games of his career in a 45-31 loss to Oklahoma, allowing heavy pass pressure get to senior quarterback AJ McCarron, who was sacked a career-high seven times. Kouandjio was assigned for much of the night to block sophomore linebacker Eric Striker, who weighs just 220 pounds, but was the Sooners' star of the game defensively with three sacks. He beat Kouandjio with speed around the outside of the pocket, and his final sack caused a McCarron fumble which dashed any chance of a UA comeback with under a minute to play.
Kouandjio also committed a false start which helped lead to a punt early in the third quarter. To his credit, he apparently stood tall when questioned after the game about his performance.
Kouandjio is considered among the top tackle prospects for the NFL draft, and the junior is considering early entry. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 15. Earlier in the week, Kouandjio attributed his early-season struggles to focusing too much on his draft status. Kouandjio appeared to have that issue solved, playing much more consistently over the latter part of the season.
On Thursday, however, his focus looked to be anywhere but the Superdome. And he knew it:
Cyrus Kouandjio apologized to Alabama fans for his performance. "It's not going to break me," he said.â Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) January 3, 2014
The NFL Draft Advisory Board feedback Kouandjio will receive, which gives all underclassmen considering early entry a rough idea of where they could be drafted, was most likely already sent to him before he took the field against OU. If it provides him with a first-round projection, UA coach Nick Saban will encourage him to enter the draft, as he does with all players projected to be chosen in the first round.
If the Sugar Bowl was any indication, however, Kouandjio could use another year of college seasoning.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread