Steen opts to return for senior season

Anthony Steen (61) said he's anxious to return to Alabama's offensive line to help lead the group in 2013. Scott Kane/Icon SMI

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- At least one key junior is returning to the University of Alabama next season. Right guard Anthony Steen announced he would come back for his senior season on Wednesday, citing a need to improve his draft stock, according to the university.

"Returning in 2013 will give me a chance to improve my draft status," he said in a news release, "while also providing the opportunity to enjoy another season with my teammates, coaches and our fans."

Steen was part of an offensive line that was arguably the best in the nation, producing two 1,000-yard tailbacks and accounting for more than 3,000 yards on the ground. The 6-foot-3 Mississippi native will be joined by sophomore tackle Cyrus Kouandjio on the line next season as it's likely junior right tackle D.J. Fluker will turn pro. Center Barrett Jones, the Rimington Award winner, and All-American guard Chance Warmack were both seniors this season and are likely NFL draft picks.

"We are glad that Anthony has decided to return and he'll be one of the senior leaders of our offense," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "He's done an outstanding job for us as a starter at guard on the last two championship teams and I think he can become an even better player and improve his status for next year's draft with another season here."

Saban said that while most people spoke about Jones, Fluker and Warmack this season, he expects to hear a different tune in 2013.

"I think Anthony Steen and Cyrus are two guys that have played very, very well all year long, and their time is coming," he said. "They're going to be the guys who get featured next year as being the most experienced guys, who have the most starts, who have played with the most consistency, that people will be looking at as guys who probably will receive a lot of accolades. I don't think that just because you don't get media attention or make some team that it doesn't mean you haven't been very effective as a player. A lot of times, people do a numbers count on how many guys are from this this team -- you can only submit so many guys for these teams -- but Anthony's done as good a job as anyone on the offensive line."

Steen, who has started 25 games in his career, came to Alabama as the No. 39 prospect at defensive tackle, according to ESPN.

"I enjoy Tuscaloosa and our fans way too much to leave early," Steen said. "We are also losing two great seniors this year and this will give me the chance to help get players ready for their new roles in 2013."