Alabama Football: 2024 instant-impact contributors
5-star cornerback Jaylen Mbakwe could factor into the rotation very early. With as many as four NFL Draft departures expected, the Alabama secondary could be hit especially hard by attrition. The Tide will have a lot of inexperience and youth on the back end, which could open up an opportunity for an elite talent like Mbakwe to assume a major role.
If Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold both declare for the draft, Mbakwe will compete with the likes of Dezz Ricks and Jahlil Hurley for the starting cornerback spot opposite Trey Amos. Ricks and Hurley are both former elite prospects in their own right, and have a year of experience in the program after joining in the 2023 class. However, neither received much in-game experience to gain a significant advantage over Mbakwe. Fellow 2024 cornerback signees Zabien Brown and Jameer Grimsley could also be in the mix.
4-star safety Peyton Woodyard could also have a path to early playing time. As previously mentioned, Bama will have vacancies to fill in the secondary after this season.
Caleb Downs will have one safety spot locked down, but there may be a heated competition for the other spot. Alabama Football could return a pair of quality veteran options in Kristian Story and Devonta Smith, as well as rising sophomores Jake Pope, Tony Mitchell, and Bray Hubbard. Peyton Woodyard comes to Tuscaloosa with an SEC-ready body, and could insert himself into this safety competition. It will be a crowded room full of talent and former blue-chip recruits, but, just like at corner, there won’t be a lot of separation based on game reps. Fellow 2024 safeties Red Morgan and Dre Kirkpatrick Jr. will join Woodyard at the Capstone.
Alabama Football may need one of its freshmen pass-catchers to step up next season. With the expected departure of Jermaine Burton, the Tide will need to compensate for the absence of the playmaking receiver. The obvious solution here is Ryan Williams, but until Williams signs his national letter of intent, 4-star wide receiver Amari Jefferson is Bama’s highest-ranked receiver signee.
Jefferson appears to be a very solid, well-rounded wideout that can play inside or outside in Alabama’s offensive scheme. Two more 4-stars, Rico Scott and Aeryn Hampton, could be equally dangerous in the slot.
Realistically, Alabama should return a lot of contributors in its wide receiver room, including Isaiah Bond, Kendrick Law, Kobe Prentice, Malik Benson, and Jalen Hale. Even so, this is a position that tends to rotate regularly. Coach Saban has stockpiled a lot of receiver talent on this roster, and he continued to add formidable weapons in 2024. It will be interesting to see if Amari Jefferson can become a household name sooner rather than later.