Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have one mission in 2023: prove they’re still on top. After Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs won their second-straight National Championship, many have claimed that Alabama football is no longer the top dog in college football. The Tide have rarely had any teams rival them over the Saban era, and now that they do, it will be interesting to see how they respond.
One place where Alabama is still the top dog is the recruiting world. The Tide have pulled in an insane class in this cycle, with an absurd eight five-stars and 19 four-stars. Needless to say, this recruiting class is the best in the nation by a wide margin.
That said, Alabama’s roster still isn’t perfect. The Tide have lost a ton of players this offseason, whether it be to the transfer portal or to the NFL Draft. Those players include generational talents like Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr., and replacing any of them will be a Herculean task.
Fortunately for the Tide, they still have a chance to fill some of the holes on the roster. National Signing Day is just a couple weeks away, and Alabama is in great position to add more talent. When they do sign more players though, a few positions should take priority over others.
With that said, here are Alabama’s biggest needs ahead of National Signing Day.
Alabama’s secondary has been hit harder than any other position group in terms of departures. Four key players in the group, those being Jordan Battle, Brian Branch, Eli Ricks and DeMarcco Hellams, have all left the program. Replacing that much production in the secondary, especially in the brutal SEC, will be very tough for the Tide.
That said, Alabama football does return a few key players. Kool-Aid McKinstry led the team with 15 passes defended last season, while Terrion Arnold and Malachi Moore had solid seasons as rotational corners. These players will need to adjust to a bigger role, but they are all talented and can absolutely do it.
The bigger question for the Tide lies at safety. Kristian Story is in line to be one of the starters, but he played very little and only had five tackles last season. The other projected starter is Caleb Downs, the top safety recruit in the 2023 class.
While very talented, Alabama lacks experience at the safety position. There are some good safeties still in the transfer portal, such as Oklahoma’s Bryson Washington, that could help Alabama greatly. Whether it be through the portal or from high school, the Tide should look for safety help on National Signing Day.
2. Offensive line
Much like the secondary, Alabama football has also lost a lot quite a few offensive linemen this offseason. Two starting linemen are departing for the NFL, and another, guard Javion Cohen, left in the transfer portal. The Tide also lost four backup linemen to the portal as well.
Alabama has clearly noticed these departures and prioritized the line in recruiting. The Tide flipped five-star lineman Kadyn Proctor from Iowa on Early Signing Day, and has four four-star linemen enrolled already. The talent is certainly there, but the group is lacking in experience.
The two key returners are tackle JC Latham and guard Tyler Booker, who will have to lead this young group. There are a few quality linemen left in the portal, but the pickings are definitely slim. As long as the young players develop though, Alabama should be just fine here.
Let’s get this out of the way first, replacing Bryce Young is impossible. He is probably the best quarterback Alabama football has ever had and will likely go first overall in the NFL Draft, and there’s just no way any realistic quarterback could live up to that. That said, the Tide need to have a strong quarterback to win it all, and it’s uncertain if they do right now.
As it stands, Jalen Milroe is in line to be Alabama’s starter next season. He filled in for Young against Texas A&M last season, but his performance was a mixed bag. Behind him are Ty Simpson, who attempted just five passes this season, and Eli Holstein, a four-star incoming freshman.
Getting a proven quarterback from the portal is pretty much out of the question, as most have already found new homes. Likewise, most of the top high school quarterbacks have already signed with their schools long ago. With that in mind, it seems like Alabama will just have to roll with its current group of signal-callers.
Now, all the quarterbacks have a lot of talent and could easily succeed in Alabama’s season. If they don’t play up to their ability, though, it could be another disappointing season in Tuscaloosa.
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