Alabama Football: 2024 instant-impact contributors (honorable mention)
4-star tight end Caleb Odom has superstar potential in Tuscaloosa. He has a lot of work to do (and a lot of weight to gain) before he can play in-line tight end at the SEC level, but I do believe he could flex out and contribute as early as next fall. The primary obstacle to playing time for Caleb Odom will be Bama’s depth at the position; the Tide will have eight tight ends on the roster barring any transfer portal exits. Additionally, it returns all three players that saw significant playing time this year, including true sophomore Amari Niblack. Niblack thrived in a role very similar to what Odom projects to play, and will likely see an expanded version of that role in 2024.
For these reasons, it's tough to see Odom finding the field much in year one, but he could present matchup issues for opposing defenses in specific packages.
Similarly, 4-star linebacker Sterling Dixon finds himself in an interesting position. Dixon is a very athletic linebacker that can be molded to play either off-ball or on the edge, and this versatility makes him an intriguing prospect. Alabama will return a lot of depth at inside linebacker, and Dixon likely needs some physical development to be a regular contributor in the front-seven anyway. However, Bama could be thin on the edge if Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell both depart for the NFL.
It will return a couple of vets, as well as a trio of former 5-stars in Keon Keeley, Yhonzae Pierre, and Qua Russaw. While the talent in the room can’t be denied, Alabama will not have a proven commodity on the edge. There could be a path for Sterling Dixon to establish a role as a third down pass-rush specialist, but I believe Bama’s 2023 edge group will make a significant jump this offseason. The development of Keeley, Pierre, and Russaw would make it very difficult for Dixon to earn defensive reps on the edge, but he is also athletic enough to make noise on special teams.
Alabama Football brings in a lot of elite prospects in the 2024 cycle, and returns plenty of production as well. In the 2023 season, true freshmen Kadyn Proctor and Caleb Downs burst onto the scene as standouts, while fellow freshmen Justice Haynes, Jalen Hale, and James Smith made splashes as well. It will be fascinating to watch this 2024 class develop, and to see which members of the class can become immediate contributors.