Alabama's Smith projected to be first-round pick

Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith made it official Saturday when he announced through a Montgomery, Ala., law firm that he was leaving school early to enter the NFL draft.

Smith, the 2008 Outland Trophy winner, was suspended for the Crimson Tide's Allstate Sugar Bowl loss to Utah amid allegations that he or someone on his behalf had improper dealings with an agent.

Smith's statement was not released through the University of Alabama, but rather through the Montgomery, Ala., law firm of Thomas, Means, Gillis & Seay. Smith, one of the best left tackles to come through the SEC in the last decade, said he arrived at his decision through much prayer and counseling with his parents and coach.

It was expected all along that Smith would declare for the draft. He's projected as the No. 2 overall pick in the latest mock draft by ESPN's Todd McShay. But Smith said soon after being suspended that he hadn't ruled out returning for his senior season.

Smith's statement read: "I value deeply the opportunity I've had to play for s uch a prestigious program and to have the support of such a prolific coach in Nick Saban. After much consideration, I am proud to announce my intent to become eligible for the next National Football League draft. Alabama football will always hold a special place in my heart."

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15.

Chris Low is a college football reporter for ESPN.com.