Kalen DeBoer is in his second week as Alabama's new head football coach, and he is convinced that he has plugged the leak in his sinking ship of players leaving for the transfer portal.
In the aftermath of Nick Saban's retirement, Alabama experienced a chaotic few days of players entering the transfer portal during and after the hiring of DeBoer.
"There was a little bit of time where there was some uncertainty, and I think we've really kind of calmed things down and feeling good about the direction and what's going to happen here this spring," DeBoer said Wednesday on The Pat McAfee Show.
"I think in a short amount of time our staff has done an amazing job really getting to know these guys..— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 24, 2024
Most of the guys that entered the transfer portal were gone before we even had a chance" ~ @KalenDeBoer #PMSLive pic.twitter.com/pWIgGugAAA
Apart from the 12 players heading to the NFL draft, Alabama has watched 27 players join the transfer portal since its initial opening in early December. Out of these 27, 10 entered after Saban's retirement on Jan. 10. Wide receiver Isaiah Bond declared his decision to enter the portal before DeBoer was appointed as the coach, while the remaining nine players made their announcements after DeBoer took on the head coaching role.
Three young, high-profile players are leaving the group of players, including five-star quarterback Julian Sayin and five-star left tackle Kadyn Proctor. The biggest of the three is national freshman of the year safety Caleb Downs, who led Alabama in tackles last season as a true freshman.
"I think there's 28 or so guys that, I think, when you look at it from a whole piece that have entered the portal," DeBoer said Wednesday on The Pat McAfee Show. "But really, about 18 to 20 of those guys were gone before we even had a chance to be here. There were a few other guys that I think were kind of just holding on and had other places to go. So maybe there's six to eight guys, maybe tops, that have entered?"
"I think our staff has done a phenomenal job. As I said, most of those guys were gone before we even had a chance. It's just the time and way of college athletics, especially college football. Certainly understand that. We've had a chance to get around our guys, and I think they're really starting to feel the vibe and feel what we're going to become. I'm excited about this journey with them."
During the process of those guys entering the transfer portal, it felt like Alabama might be unable to field a roster on opening day, but that is far from true. DeBoer leaving Washington for the Alabama job opened up the transfer window for the players at Washington, from which DeBoer has already pulled a couple of guys with him to Alabama, with a couple more making visits to Tuscaloosa.
"There are some guys in the portal, and if they're going to go anywhere other than being at Washington, I certainly am going to want to have a chance to have them here because I trust and believe in them, not just as players but as people," DeBoer said. "We've had a few of those situations in the past week."
"The cupboard is not bare with who's here at this program from a player standpoint," DeBoer said.
Among Alabama's key returning players are quarterback Jalen Milroe and safety Malachi Moore, both serving as captains last season. Additionally, the team boasts a vocal starting guard in Tyler Booker and several five-star prospects from recent recruiting classes. Although the incoming freshman class experienced the departure of Sayin, it features three five-star defensive backs: Jaylen Mbakwe, Zabien Brown, and Zay Mincey.
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