Alabama is starting practice in preparation for the Sugar Bowl against Kansas State on New Year’s Eve, the early signing period is Wednesday and the transfer portal remains open — both ways. To say the least, it’s a busy time for the Crimson Tide football program.
Here are some things that I’m hearing about Alabama:
• At the time of this writing Friday morning, there was an expectation that Alabama would not have any opt-outs for the bowl game. Practice began Friday, and every player who isn’t injured was expected to participate, including Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. There are still a couple of weeks until the bowl, so things can change in terms of whether a player plays or not, but as of now there are not expected to be opt-outs.
After practice Friday evening, Nick Saban confirmed that Young and Anderson are expected to play.
• There’s been an expectation that coaching staff changes are coming. If you’re a believer in the past being an indicator of things to come, that’s a safe bet. Staff changes occur every year for the Crimson Tide. It’s not a question of “if” but how many. The main speculation in that regard is with the coordinators, Bill O’Brien and Pete Golding. Fans have been loud and public with their discontent, but it’s Saban’s opinion and decision that matters. In other words, we’re going to have to wait and see how this plays out. Because …
• For now, Saban has been singularly concentrated on this recruiting class. He’s had this class ranked No. 1 in the 247Sports Composite, and he’s done a fantastic job of holding off all comers to keep it that way. Think of all the ammunition negative recruiters could use this year. But it hasn’t worked. They’ve been using his age, which they’ll continue to do because time is a cruel mistress to all of us. They’ll use Alabama’s relatively disappointing season. Imagine a world where two losses and a No. 5 ranking are a negative, but such are the expectations and world that Saban has created. Opponents will use everything they can to drive a wedge between current/potential commitments and the Alabama staff. So far, it hasn’t worked.
• Five-star running back Justice Haynes locked in his commitment this week. The Georgia legacy canceled in-home visits with the home-state Bulldogs and Ohio State. Both have been working like crazy to flip him. But the talented running back, who concluded his senior season with nearly 1,700 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns at Buford High School, appears set to sign with the Crimson Tide.
• Losing four-star linebacker Arion Carter to Tennessee was a gut punch, but it wasn’t unexpected as the Volunteers rallied with late momentum. Alabama did an excellent job recruiting the athletic Carter, and it would have loved to have him. But he was sort of viewed as a project in terms of how soon he’d have actually contributed. His athleticism made him a recruit who was exciting to project, but I’ve been told he’s a little raw. Still, it’s a big win for Tennessee, one it really wanted in terms of perception over Alabama. But Alabama has the No. 1 recruiting class and Tennessee has the No. 9 class, so both will be OK.
•Alabama is OK not only because of how it’s currently ranked, but especially with how it could close too. There are still multiple five-star recruits who the Crimson Tide have an excellent chance with. Individual rankings aren’t the be-all, end-all of a class, but they are a good indicator of what a class could be. Just go back and look at the 2017 recruiting class. Alabama currently has three five-stars committed and could end up with five or more.
• To do so, it has to sweep the Carver High School (Montgomery) duo of James Smith and Qua Russaw. They’ve been hard to read during their recruitment, but they’re coming off official visits that I’ve been told went well. Alabama feels good about where it stands in landing the pair, but it’s recruiting, and that means it’s not over until the name is signed on the national letter of intent. Auburn is working hard to get into the picture.
Let’s face it, the Tigers fell behind under the last head coaching staff, as recruiting efforts were lacking. Hugh Freeze and his staff are working hard to make up ground, but it might be too late. Still, in the era of NIL, anything is possible. That’s not intended to accuse any program of wrongdoing. The opposite, in fact. If you’re not using NIL to your advantage, then you’re not working it hard enough. That’s just a fact. Alabama has done a good job in the recruitment of the five-star teammates, but we’re going to have to wait until Wednesday to see if it paid off.
• An unexpected visitor could be arriving this weekend in five-star offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor. Proctor committed to Iowa over Alabama in June, but the Crimson Tide coaching staff has made a big push for him over the past few weeks. Getting Proctor on campus would be the first step in a flip. The 6-foot-7, 330-pound Proctor is the No. 12 overall prospect and No. 2 offensive tackle in the 247Sports Composite. Alabama commits are already publicly lobbying him.
We WANT !!!! @KadynProctor1
— Richard Young (@richardyoung239) December 16, 2022
• After the initial wave of players entering the transfer portal, it’s been relatively quiet lately with the exception of wide receiver Aaron Anderson entering this week. Watch out for him to land at another SEC school, with the most likely destination LSU. The New Orleans native was initially committed to LSU but flipped to Alabama after Ed Orgeron was fired. There could be a couple of players who enter the portal after the bowl game before this window closes Jan. 18, but the next wave is expected to come after spring practice when a player’s status of the 2023 team starts to come into focus. The second transfer window opens May 1.
• As I stated above, Saban’s efforts on the recruiting trail this year are incredible. He’s on the verge of another No. 1 class and has a chance to make it a blockbuster class. He’s gone above and beyond in dealing with all obstacles. It’s a particularly impressive effort from the 71-year-old.
(Photo of Nick Saban: Nelson Chenault / USA Today)