Alabama is used to natural attrition, even in large numbers, with players running out of eligibility or declaring early for the NFL Draft. With the retirement of Nick Saban, though, the Crimson Tide enter a new era without some key players who opted for the transfer portal.
New Crimson Tide coach Kalen DeBoer, who highlighted the importance of player retention at his introductory press conference, is inheriting a roster that’s been decimated by the portal in the two weeks since Saban retired. In all, 10 players have hit the portal, half of which started at least one game in 2023 — an almost unheard of exodus for a program of Alabama’s stature.
To make matters worse, six of those transfers have already committed to other SEC programs, including one that took his talents to Auburn and two former offensive starters that made the jump to Texas, a program that beat Alabama in 2023 and is set to join the conference in 2024. To give DeBoer credit, he has brought in a few transfers — all from his former school, Washington — to staunch the bleeding a little bit.
Alabama is going to have a lot of important production to replace, though. Here’s a breakdown of each player who has entered the portal since Saban decided to step away from the game.
WR Isaiah Bond
Entered: Jan. 12 | New school: Texas
Bond didn’t take long to make a decision on his future, officially entering the transfer portal two days after Saban retired. Two days after that, he committed to Texas. Bond is a significant loss for Alabama’s offense. He’s a big reason why the Crimson Tide made the College Football Playoff, saving their season with his touchdown catch on fourth-and-31 against Auburn to give Alabama a last-second win. Bond ended up leading Alabama with 48 receptions and placed second with 668 yards and four touchdowns.
LB Shawn Murphy
Entered: Jan. 13 | New school: Florida State
On its face, the loss of Murphy makes sense. He spent two seasons with the Crimson Tide and made his impact largely on special teams while playing a minor role on the defense. He finished the 2023 season with three tackles, all of which came in blowout wins against Middle Tennessee State and Chattanooga. But Alabama can hardly afford to lose depth on its defense given attrition both to the NFL and in the transfer portal, and Murphy is a former four-star linebacker who may have played a bigger role in the program moving forward.
CB Dezz Ricks
Entered: Jan. 13 | New school: Texas A&M
The younger brother of former LSU and Alabama defensive back Eli Ricks, Dezz signed with the Crimson Tide in 2023 as the No. 39 player nationally — putting him just outside of five-star range — and No. 3 cornerback in his recruiting class. He couldn’t break through in a loaded secondary and made two appearances off the bench in 2023. Losing a former blue-chip recruit like Ricks always hurts, and as was mentioned with Murphy, Alabama’s defense can hardly afford any hits to its depth.
DB Antonio Kite
Entered: Jan. 13 | New school: Auburn
The 6-foot-1 Kite joined Alabama’s roster in 2022 as a four-star recruit out of Anniston, Alabama. After redshirting as a freshman, he earned a role on special teams in 2023 and appeared in seven games, seeing playing time in both the SEC Championship Game against Georgia and Alabama’s College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against Michigan. He even fielded a punt against the Wolverines, though it didn’t net any yardage. 247Sports ranks Kite as a three-star prospect in the transfer portal.
TE Amari Niblack
Entered: Jan. 14 | New school: Texas
Losing Niblack is a huge blow for Alabama’s offense. While tight ends with at least adequate receiving skills are the norm in college football, it’s hard to come by legitimate options at Niblack’s level. The redshirt freshman had a breakout season in 2023, logging 20 catches for 327 yards and four touchdowns while outplaying veterans like CJ Dippre and Robbie Ouzts. At 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds, Niblack is a mismatch for any linebacker or safety trying to cover him with his speed, size and athleticism for the position. No wonder 247Sports tabs him as the top tight end in its transfer rankings.
CB Trey Amos
Entered: Jan. 15 | New school: Ole Miss
Unlike the other defensive back transfers thus far, Amos actually played a rather significant role for Alabama in 2023 and was in line for a lot more playing time. He appeared in all 14 games with one start after transferring in from Louisiana and finished the year with 12 total tackles and five pass breakups. He could have used his final year of eligibility to push for a starting role with Alabama in 2024 but instead took his talents to an SEC rival in Ole Miss, which has spent this offseason absolutely loading up on transfer players.
DB Caleb Downs
Entered: Jan. 17 | New school: Ohio State
Arguably the most significant departure for Alabama, Downs is a rare breed. Starting as a true freshman at the collegiate level is a tall task. Doing so for a national title-caliber team in the SEC is virtually impossible. Yet Downs nabbed one of Alabama’s starting safety spots from Day 1 and flourished in the role, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors after a stellar first season. He became the first freshman since 1970 to lead Alabama in tackles with 107 total stops. He also had two interceptions, five pass breakups and a forced fumble. Downs has all the makings of a superstar defender and future NFL Draft first-rounder.
OL Kadyn Proctor
Entered: Jan. 17 | New school: Iowa
Another freshman that made a huge contribution for Alabama in his first season, Proctor earned SEC All-Freshman honors after starting 13 games at left tackle for the Crimson Tide. He had his ups and downs and left things with a particularly brutal showing against Michigan in the Rose Bowl, but the expectation with Proctor — as with every offensive lineman — is that he will get better with each passing year. As a former top-five overall prospect and No. 1 offensive tackle out of high school, his potential is seemingly limitless.
CB Jameer Grimsley
Entered: Jan. 18 | New school: Florida
Grimsley never even really got to suit up for the Crimson Tide. He signed with Alabama in December and even went through bowl practices with the Tide ahead of their College Football Playoff foray before entering the portal a week after Alabama’s coaching change. He elected to return to his home state of Florida, where he signed with Alabama as a four-star athlete out of Tampa, and now gives the Gators a high-upside secondary addition with some positional versatility. At 6-foot-3, Grimsley could play safety but his background as a wide receiver better suits the skillset of an outside corner.
QB Julian Sayin
Entered: Jan. 19 | New school: Ohio State
Like Grimsley, Sayin signed with Alabama in December and went through bowl practices before transferring. A former five-star signal-caller out of Carlsbad, Sayin was named California’s Gatorade Player of the Year after throwing for 2,347 yards and 24 touchdowns with just one interception in 10 games as a senior. He was also named the MVP at the Elite 11 Finals, a summer competition that pits some of the nation’s best quarterback prospects against one another. Though he was the third-best quarterback in the class of 2024, 247Sports ranks him as the No. 1 transfer quarterback — above the likes of Washington State’s Cameron Ward and Duke’s Riley Leonard.