While Alabama Football enters a re-tool period with the departures through the portal and to the NFL, the team returns one of the more talented rosters in all of college football. The team will certainly see some strong camp battles to fill positions like Edge Rusher, Cornerback, Wide Receiver, and Offensive Tackle the team has several positions set in stone.
The coaching staff will need to evaluate a few positions heading into the spring to weigh if they’ll attack the spring transfer portal window or not but, overall the team is pretty set. It’ll be hard for the team to find an offensive tackle or a cornerback more talented than what this team has coming in meaning Kalen DeBoer may just stand pat and stick with what he’s got.
Alabama Football: Pre-Season Polls will provide an interesting perspective
The Alabama Crimson Tide’s initial ranking from the Associated Press will give us the first idea of how this team is viewed nationally. The team returns enough talent to be ranked inside the top five but, with plenty of turnover the ranking may be shockingly high or shockingly low. Preseason polls typically don’t hold much weight but, with a new era starting it’ll be interesting to see where this group ranks.
While on Special Teams the Alabama Football team has lost the greatest kicker in program history in Will Reichard it will return a special team weapon in James Burnip. Burnip improved massively from 2022-2023 in 2023, Burnip punted 57 times for an average of 47.5 yards per punt with a long of 67 yards. The Australian became more consistent in 2023 landing 8.77% of his punts inside the 20 a massive improvement from his 2.27% mark in 2022.
Bringing back a punter as skilled and as experienced as Burnip is under-rated but, also wildly important. In the Rose Bowl, we almost saw James Burnip and good special teams beat Michigan as the Wolverines fumbled one punt and nearly took a safety on the other although the Alabama Football team ended up losing the game. We’d all love it if Burnip didn’t have to punt at all in 2024, however, whenever he does, we will all be confident in his ability.
- Tight End
While in this year’s signing class, Ryan Williams draws the most attention and rightfully so, Caleb Odom may end up as the best weapon signed in the class. The group returns starting tight end CJ Dippre who caught 11 passes for 187 yards and will certainly be more involved in the offense early on as younger wide receivers find their groove. The group will also return Robbie Ouzts who caught three passes for 33 yards in 2023. Dippre and Ouzts however bring an elite level of blocking that gives the offense an advantage in the rushing attack.
The addition of Caleb Odom will give the Alabama Football team a weapon similar to Amari Niblack who entered the transfer portal. Odom brings a unique blend of size and speed at 6″5 215 pounds Odom will bring a style of play similar to OJ Howard while being a bigger version of Irv Smith Jr. Odom can find his way onto the field in his freshman season giving the Alabama Football team another weapon for Jalen Milroe.
- Running back
Despite losing Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams the Alabama Football team will be as strong as ever at running back. The duo of Jam Miller and Justice Haynes will bring the group some experience however, they’ll also have a higher upside than the duo of McClellan and Williams. Jam Miller spent the 2023 season as the third running back in the rotation rushing for 201 yards and a touchdown. Haynes played mostly in mop-up duty getting extended playing time in the Rose Bowl finishing the season with 168 yards and two touchdowns.
The running back room will be younger than it’s been in a few years as it’ll be led by talented underclassmen. As a true sophomore, Justice Haynes will likely lead the team with as much talent as any back we’ve seen in past seasons. Richard Young redshirted last season but, this season his talent and experience now will have him in contention for serious playing time. The group has a pair of talented freshmen that will push the returnees for playing time in Tuscaloosa Native Kevin Riley and Four-Star Running Back Daniel Hill.
- Inside Linebacker
The inside linebacker core for Alabama is one of if not the best inside backer groups in the country. Deontae Lawson returns with two seasons of significant playing time and will be a preseason favorite for the Butkus Award. Lawson recorded 67 tackles with three sacks in 2023 despite missing time with an injury. Jihaad Campbell saw extended playing time down the stretch and may be in line for the biggest breakout season among returning players. Campbell recorded 66 tackles, half a sack, two fumble recoveries, an interception, and a touchdown in 2023.
In Kane Wommack’s 4-2-5 defense, Lawson and Campbell will have plenty of responsibility while playing slightly different roles than they did in Kevin Steele’s defense. The group lost some of the depth they had with Trezmen Marshall heading to the draft while role players like Kendrick Blackshire, Ian Jackson, and Shawn Murphy entered the transfer portal.
The additions of Justin Okoronkwo, QB Reese, and Cayden Jones in the 2024 signing class will help rebuild some of the depth the group lost to the transfer portal.
- Interior Offensive Line
The strongest returning group on the Alabama Football team will be its interior offensive line. The returns of Tyler Booker and Jaeden Roberts give Alabama one of the top guard tandems in the country. Center will be the only position the team sees turnover with Seth McLaughlin transferring to Ohio State. In replacing McLaughlin the Alabama Football team has brought in one of the top centers in the country Parker Brailsford. Brailsford was a member of Kalen DeBoer’s team at Washington where he graded out as one of the top centers despite being “undersized”.
Brailsford was a first-team All-Freshman member at Center, All-Pac 12 second team, and was ranked the top interior offensive line transfer in the portal. PFF gave Brailsford an 82.6 pass-blocking grade while his run-blocking grade was 80.8. In 612 pass-blocking snaps, Brailsford allowed just one sack in his time at Washington. Brailsford will be a welcome addition to a group that allowed 49 sacks in 2023.
The strong interior offensive line group will be vital in the productivity of the offense in 2023. The group is filled with maulers in the running game which should help create explosive plays for the running backs. With two new starting offensive tackles the group will need solid play out of the group on the inside while the tackles gain their footing.