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HomeFootball2023 FootballA post-ESD look at Bama's 2024 roster

A post-ESD look at Bama’s 2024 roster

 

With Early Signing Day in the mirror, Alabama is set to bring in 23 new additions to its roster (24 if you count Texas A&M transfer portal refugee DL L.T. Overton), with three or four additional possibilities to come from either the transfer portal over the next month, or the traditional National Signing Day in February.

As TideFans.com restructures its recruiting and transfer portal coverage, we no longer will spend a great deal of time ranking all the other SEC teams’ recruiting classes. When TideFans.com began doing so in 1997 through the collective of writers and analysts that made up the entity we named NARCAS (North American Recruiting, Coaching and Athletic Survey), there was only a fraction of the information available about prospects that there is today, with some fairly major schools having no online journalistic presence whatsoever. Today, quite frankly, you’re not going to get a better idea of what most of these prospects can do than by reading the established sources that have access to a larger network of analysts than we ever did. With that, we are sunsetting the NARCAS tag effective now, and bid it a fond farewell.

In addition, the portal has made it difficult to get a good feel for how teams are doing in regard to roster management until at least the middle of spring practice. And if the NCAA keeps losing court cases regarding its restrictions on post-transfer eligibility, it’s only going to get harder to track.

We also realize that “portal season,” if you want to call it that, has really just opened up. Alabama, for instance, is being linked to another Texas A&M transfer, WR Evan Stewart, who would be a game-changer if he decided to come to Tuscaloosa. We’ll touch on that scenario more in the section below dealing with wide receivers.

Still, this will give fans an idea of what Alabama’s 2024 roster might look like, although we expect further attrition over the coming offseason. Each player is labeled with the eligibility class he will be in 2024, not the upcoming College Football Playoff.

QUARTERBACKS
Departing: Tyler Buchner
Returning: Jalen Milroe (Jr.), Ty Simpson (So.), Dylan Lonergan (RS Fr.), Eli Holstein (RS Fr.)
Signed: Julian Sayin
Analysis: Alabama got probably the top quarterback on the board in Julian Sayin, a player so dynamic that there are more than a handful of observers who believe he will supplant Ty Simpson as Jalen Milroe’s top backup in 2024. Sayin is an athletic quarterback but isn’t the runner than Milroe often is, and probably isn’t even on the level Bryce Young was a year ago. But he has a powerful, accurate arm, a good field temperament and is about as “can’t-miss” a prospect as Alabama has signed at the quarterback position in some time, probably since Young. The real discussion, of course, is what happens to the depth chart. There is virtually no chance all five of these players will be around come September. Ty Simpson has been rumored to be portaling out for months, but has yet to pull the trigger on it. Dylan Lonergan reportedly has been targeted by multiple schools – legal or not, schools across the country are contacting other teams’ players and blatantly tampering with personnel, but it’s not going to stop and will only become more prevalent in the coming years, so get used to it – but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which both Simpson and Lonergan both left the program. Eli Holstein’s first spring was a tough one, and he didn’t make a lot of noise this fall, either, not even when the quarterback position as a whole was up in the air. Tyler Buchner, who started the South Florida game, will head back to Notre Dame after the CFP and give up football in favor of lacrosse. Sayin is currently on campus and has already turned some heads. Our bet here is Bama loses two from the Simpson-Lonergan-Holstein group before the first game of 2024.

RUNNING BACKS
Departing: Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams
Returning: Jamarion Miller (Jr.), Justice Haynes (So.), Richard Young (RS Fr.)
Signed: Kevin Riley
Analysis: Alabama flipped Miami commitment Kevin Riley, a Tuscaloosa native, on ESD and he’ll immediately join the battle for playing time when he gets to campus. McClellan and Williams could each return for another year if they wanted to, but McClellan’s career has been so marred by injury that if he’s going to make any real money doing this, he probably needs to go ahead and try his hand at the NFL. Jamarion Miller finally broke into the playing rotation on a consistent basis over the last month of the regular season, and with McClellan likely out for at least the first round of the CFP, Miller will have plenty of opportunities to show what he can do. Justice Haynes is a wild card here, because early in 2023, the internet rumor mill had him unhappy with his lack of playing time and on the verge of leaving the team at any time. As it stands, Haynes likely knows now that Alabama prefers to play two backs every season to keep mileage down, and that’s the best thing for his future NFL career, anyway. If he returns, he’ll rotate with Miller. Richard Young showed a nice burst in limited action in 2023 but was clearly behind Miller and Haynes, so the question is whether he can take the Miller role next year. Riley is 5’10” and only about 190 pounds, smaller than what Alabama prefers at that spot, so it will probably be a year before he has the bulk required for this offense. Alabama is expected to pursue other players as the recruiting process continues and may even look to the portal for depth. Alabama also lost a quality walk-on to graduation (Jonathan Bennett) so it’s worth keeping an eye on other walk-ons like Michael Lorino and J.R. Gardner, at least for depth in the spring.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Departing:
Jermaine Burton, Thaiu Jones-Bell, Ja’Corey Brooks
Returning: Isaiah Bond (Jr.), Malik Benson (Sr.), Kendrick Law (Jr.), Kobe Prentice (Jr.), Jalen Hale (So.), Shazz Preston (So.), Emmanuel Henderson (Jr.), Jaren Hamilton (RS Fr.), Cole Adams (RS Fr.)
Signed: Rico Scott, Amari Jefferson, Aeryn Hampton, Ryan Williams (Committed)
Analysis: Unless Alabama brings in Evan Stewart as a transfer, the main point of emphasis here will be holding serve with commitment Ryan Williams, arguably the nation’s top receiver prospect, who is committed to Alabama but still taking other visits. It’s little secret that Auburn is going to pull out all the stops (euphemism there for legal cash/NIL) to get Williams to flip, but Auburn isn’t the only one in pursuit. If Williams sticks to his longtime Bama commitment, he’ll come to campus battling Malik Benson and Kendrick Law for a starting position from day one. Williams is just 6’0” and 165 pounds, but that’s De’Vonta Smith size and Smith did just fine with it. If Williams flips, then the depth chart will simply move up a spot to account for the loss of Jermaine Burton to the NFL Draft. Alabama also lost Ja’Corey Brooks, he of the other Auburn miracle finish in 2021, as Brooks simply got passed by better players. He’ll play at Louisville in 2024. Thaiu Jones-Bell never really could break into the rotation, battling numerous injuries in his four years here. The closest he came was making the fall depth chart as the backup punt returner one year before getting hurt. Alabama’s priority in 2024 will be finding a bookend receiver to keep the heat off Isaiah Bond, who has emerged from the pack. Malik Benson would seem to be the most likely candidate, although his first year in Tuscaloosa after signing as a JUCO transfer was tame compared to expectations. Kendrick Law will have a major role somewhere, likely as a slot receiver and maybe even a running back at times. Kobe Prentice is right there with Law and Benson, and after that it’s a question of whether Jalen Hale continues to develop. Bama typically plays six receivers these days with its A-group, so the last spot would be up for grabs between another 2023 signee, Jaren Hamilton, plus Shazz Preston, Emmanuel Henderson and Cole Adams. Adams is probably a slot option only, and while Henderson has gifted levels of athleticism, he hasn’t broken through at receiver yet. Of the signees, Aeryn Hampton is another slot-type receiver, a smaller Kendrick Law with a similar makeup. Amari Jefferson is probably the best chance to develop quickly as an outside receiver, while Rico Scott is somewhat in between. If Bama gets both Stewart and Williams, look out.

TIGHT ENDS
Departing:
None
Returning: C.J. Dippre (Sr.), Danny Lewis Jr. (Jr.), Amari Niblack (Jr.), Robbie Ouzts (Sr.), Miles Kitselman (Sr.), Ty Lockwood (RS Fr.)
Signed: Jay Lindsey, Caleb Odom
Analysis: Word broke out late this week that other teams with offenses built more in the spread vein were attempting to recruit Amari Niblack to enter the transfer portal. While it likely won’t happen, Niblack is certainly not a player Bama wants to lose. The question is whether the offense can be tailored to feature Niblack – as well as C.J. Dippre – as receivers more often in 2024. Neither player got the kind of catch volume they were expecting in 2023. If anything, Alabama often got its best results when Robbie Ouzts was on the field and Niblack was playing more of a slot position. Dippre might not have caught as many balls as he’d hoped, but he turned out to be the missing piece as an inline blocker that Alabama was searching for. The Dippre-Niblack-Ouzts trio turned out to be so good that Danny Lewis Jr. and Miles Kitselman were both relegated to very part-time duty. Nothing is likely to change in 2024, other than Ty Lockwood is now joining the fight for more regular playing time. Bama signed a pair of players, a traditional inline tight end in Jay Lindsey and a flex player in Caleb Odom, who could either step in for Niblack in 2025 or 2026, or perhaps grow into something bigger. Neither is expected to play much next year, but Alabama has to guard against the possibility of losing four of its six scholarshipped veterans to graduation and/or early NFL Draft entry following the coming season. Dippre, Ouzts and Kitselman will depart as seniors, and if Niblack has the kind of year some think he will, 2024 will be his last season in crimson.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Departing: Seth McLaughlin, Darrian Dalcourt, J.C. Latham (projected)
Returning: T Elijah Pritchett (So.), T Kadyn Proctor (So.), T Miles McVay (RS Fr.), T Olaus Alinen (RS Fr.), T/G Wilkin Formby (RS Fr.), G/C Terrence Ferguson (Jr.), C James Brockermeyer (Jr.), G Roq Montgomery (RS Fr.), G Tyler Booker (Jr.), G Jaeden Roberts (Jr.)
Signed: G Will Sanders, G Casey Poe, G/T Joe Ionata
Analysis: If Alabama had a disappointing recruiting haul anywhere, this is it, and specifically for lack of getting an offensive tackle. Alabama was thought to be the leader for Jordan Seaton for nearly the entire process, but he then committed to Colorado and ultimately signed with no one, currently fielding offers from Maryland, Nebraska and perhaps still Colorado. In the NIL era, this is what shopping looks like, all perfectly legal now. Alabama then tried to get Favour Edwin to replace him, but Edwin ended up signing with Auburn instead after flipping from Florida. On the three players Bama did sign, all are solid guard prospects, and at least one of them (Joe Ionata) could wind up at right tackle. The problem for Alabama is that it has already had to talk Elijah Pritchett out of transferring once, and if Pritchett were to go ahead with that plan, it would leave Alabama without virtually any experience and an open slot on the right side, assuming J.C. Latham does what most expect he’ll do and jump early to the NFL. If Bama were to lose both Latham and Pritchett, right tackle would be a battle likely between three redshirt freshmen (Miles McVay, Olaus Alinen, Wilkin Formby), or breakout star RG Jaeden Roberts could slide out to the tackle spot. LG Tyler Booker would also be a candidate to switch positions. The other problem for Alabama is that it will lose both its top centers, Seth McLaughlin and Darrian Dalcourt, leaving center to either undersized-but-technically-sound James Brockermeyer, or reserve guard Terrence Ferguson. The situation is concerning enough that Nick Saban specifically addressed it in his post-ESD press conference. Alabama absolutely needed to sign three interior OL – only Ferguson and redshirt freshman Roq Montgomery are true guards from among the reserves on-hand – but it needs to add a tackle in the late period, or from the portal, as well as probably a center. This one’s not done yet.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Departing: Tim Smith, Justin Eboigbe, Anquin Barnes, Isaiah Hastings
Returning: Jaheim Oatis (Jr.), Tim Keenan (Jr.), Jah-Marien Latham (Sr.), James Smith (So.), Damon Payne Jr. (Jr.), Monkell Goodwine (Jr.), Edric Hill (RS Fr.), Jordan Renaud (RS Fr.), Khurtiss Perry (So.), Hunter Osborne (RS Fr.)
Signed: L.T. Overton (Jr.-TR), Isaia Faga, Steve Mboumoua, Jeremiah Beaman
Analysis: The big get here is Overton, a former five-star recruit who first signed with Texas A&M. Overton likely comes to campus as a starter, or at the worst in a two-man fight with Jah-Marien Latham for the vacant defensive end position opposite Jaheim Oatis. There is a possibility that Tim Smith could opt to come back for another year, as he needs a better resume before heading off to the NFL Draft. The loss of Justin Eboigbe hurts, and Alabama will lose at least two linemen to the transfer portal, Anquin Barnes and Isaiah Hastings. Hastings didn’t appear to be on the verge of getting serious playing time, but Barnes has good strength and athleticism and at times was one of Alabama’s most impressive linemen in practices. Consistency was lacking, but talent wasn’t. Fortunately Alabama appears to be fine for at least 2024 regardless. Oatis and Tim Keenan return to their starting positions, with Damon Payne Jr. returning as Keenan’s backup and James Smith finally getting healthy and accustomed to college ball. Either Payne or Smith could easily be in the mix with Latham and Overton for a starting position. Bama would like to get some good minutes from at least two of a group that includes Monkell Goodwine, Edric Hill, Jordan Renaud, Hunter Osborne and Khurtiss Perry. Of that group, Renaud appears to be on the verge of stepping up, while Hill has shown steady progress but may lack the “wow” factor. Goodwine is the head-scratcher here, as he was expected to be more competitive by this point in his career. Perry may be too small for a three-man front, while Osborne is a project with a longer timeline. Of the signees, Steve Mboumoua and Jeremiah Beaman both have immense potential, but will likely take a year for each to get big and strong enough. Isaia Faga will also need to add weight, especially given that he projects to the middle of the defense. Mboumoua is the best overall prospect of the three, and it’s a solid haul, but not one that is expected to pay any immediate dividends. That’s where Overton comes in.

LINEBACKERS
Departing: Dallas Turner (projected), Chris Braswell, Trezmen Marshall
Returning: Quandarrius Robinson (Sr., projected), Deontae Lawson (Jr., projected), Jihaad Campbell (So.), Keanu Koht (Jr.), Keon Keeley (RS Fr.), Yhonzae Pierre (RS Fr.), Kendrick Blackshire (Sr.), Justin Jefferson (Sr.), Ian Jackson (Jr.), Shawn Murphy (So.), Jeremiah Alexander (So.), Qua Russaw (RS Fr.)
Signed: Jayshawn Ross, Cayden Jones, Sterling Dixon, Justin Okoronkwo, Quinton Reese (Committed)
Analysis: This one is going to take some explaining. First, we project that one player who is a NFL Draft prospect (Dallas Turner) will go. We also project another (Deontae Lawson) will stay. And finally, we project that a senior who went through Senior Day (Quandarrius Robinson) will opt to come back for a final year. This unit is also reportedly fending off several overtures from other programs, trying to get players to transfer out. It’s somewhat of a mess right now, but Alabama should be fine in the end. Our projected starting lineup next year would be Robinson and Keanu Koht at outside linebacker, and Lawson and Jihaad Campbell inside. That would mean the backup inside linebackers would be a pair of seniors (Justin Jefferson, Kendrick Blackshire) and that all four inside players would exit the program at the end of the 2024 season. Ian Jackson and Shawn Murphy give Alabama more veteran depth, but Jackson and Blackshire are being watched closely as the portal opens up. If Lawson opts to go the Draft, Blackshire would be the most likely candidate to take his starting slot. Alabama also has solid OLB depth in the form of Keon Keeley, Yhonzae Pierre, Jeremiah Alexander (who may eventually move inside) and Qua Russaw. The ESD haul was also impressive, especially outside, where Bama got both Jayshawn Ross and Justin Okoronkwo, a pair of exceptionally highly-regarded players. The inside linebackers will have a bit of a longer timeline to develop. Cayden Jones, Sterling Dixon and commitment Quinton Reese are all on the light side as far as the typical Bama inside linebacker goes. Jones is expected to grow enough to possibly stick on the outside linebacker, similar to former Tider Anfernee Jennings. Okoronkwo could also wind up inside. It’s going to be fun to watch this collection of edge rushers develop; no other program in the country can touch Bama’s OLB group in terms of depth and quality.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Departing: Ga’Quincy McKinstry (projected), Malachi Moore, Jaylen Key
Returning: Terrion Arnold (Jr., projected), Kristian Story (Sr.), Devonta Smith (Sr.), Caleb Downs (So.), Trey Amos (Sr.), Antonio Kite (So.) Jake Pope (So.), Earl Little II (So.), Brayson Hubbard (So.), Dezz Ricks (RS Fr.), Jahlil Hurley (RS Fr.), Tony Mitchell (So.)
Signed: Dre Kirkpatrick Jr., Peyton Woodyard, Jaylen Mbakwe, Jameer Grimsley, Rydarrius Morgan, Zabien Brown
Analysis: We project Kool-Aid McKinstry will opt for the NFL, but we’re 50/50 on Terrion Arnold and for the moment, project him to return. As for the rest of the secondary, Devonta Smith could wind up being one of those guys whose career just seems to fly by due to injury. Right now, he would project as the starting Star in 2024, with Kristian Story and Caleb Downs on either side of him. Trey Amos would be the other corner opposite Arnold, and the dime safety would probably be Jake Pope. Dezz Ricks and Antonio Kite would return as the extra corners, along with Jahlil Hurley, while Earl Little II, Brayson Hubbard and Tony Mitchell – who quietly played enough in 2023 to burn a redshirt – would be the spare safeties. Bama added six signees here, with the most interesting being Jaylen Mbakwe. He’s a bit on the small side, but some believe Bama got the top cornerback prospect in America when it signed Mbakwe. He could be immediately in the mix at Star, or at corner if Arnold leaves. The most followed signee will almost certainly be Dre Kirkpatrick Jr., whose father played for Alabama and Nick Saban seemingly all of five minutes ago. The junior Kirkpatrick isn’t as big or fast as his father, and likely projects as a safety. Rydarrius Morgan and Peyton Woodyard give Alabama two true safety prospects, while Jameer Grimley and Zabien Brown could both play multiple positions. It’s also possible that wide receiver signee Aeryn Hampton gets his first look on defense. A plethora of riches here, but also plenty of opportunity for younger players.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Departing: PK Will Reichard
Returning: P/H James Burnip (Sr.), P Nick Serpa (So.), P/PK Upton Bellenfant (So.), PK Reid Schuback (Jr.), PK Reed Harradine (RS Fr.), LS Kneeland Hibbett (Sr.)
Signed: None
Analysis: There will be some rebuilding in the return units, but first let’s address the big loss: All-time leading scorer in college football history, placekicker Will Reichard. Alabama brought in Conor Talty in 2023 and he got into a couple of blowout games, enough to tell that his leg strength currently is nowhere near Reichard’s. Judging mostly from practices and warm-up sessions, Talty’s accuracy will be fine, but Alabama may need to look elsewhere for a kickoff specialist, and long field goals are going to be a lot less secured than they were under Reichard. Upton Bellenfant had a nice A-Day game in 2023 before Talty’s arrival, but scholarshipped players – which Talty is, and Bellenfant is not – tend to get the benefit of the doubt in kicking competitions. We haven’t seen enough of either Reid Schuback or Reed Harradine to know whether either will be in the mix at kicker or as the kickoff specialist, although we’ve seen Schuback kick a bit and there seems to be some separation back from Bellenfant to him. At punter, it’s a much better deal: James Burnip really upped his game from 2022 to 2023, and will enter 2024 as one of the top punters in the country. Alabama also has a capable backup there in Nick Serpa, a tall and long-limbed punter who would appear to be in line to take over for Burnip in 2025. Bellenfant is also in the discussion there. Longsnapper Kneeland Hibbett has become one of the best Bama has had at the spot over the years, and Burnip’s return means Bama won’t have to go looking for a holder. Caleb Downs seems to have solidified the punt return game, but with the losses of Ja’Corey Brooks and Roydell Williams, Bama will have to find another kick returner to go with Kendrick Law. As usual, several of Alabama’s signees at receiver, running back and defensive back are candidates to bolster the return and coverage teams.

Follow Jess Nicholas on X at @TideFansJessN

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