Alabama Football: Five 2024 signees Kalen DeBoer must retain

2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington
2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington / Alika Jenner/GettyImages
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2. Jaylen Mbakwe (5-star cornerback)

With an exodus underway at the position group, all seven of Alabama’s defensive back commits have become critical to retain. Jaylen Mbakwe, a versatile athlete and lockdown cornerback, is considered the best of the bunch. 

Bama is losing three starting defensive backs to the NFL Draft, and has already lost seven more to the NCAA Transfer Portal. Four of these outgoing transfers have already committed to rival SEC programs, and Caleb Downs is expected to do the same. 

The Tide experienced even bigger secondary losses on its coaching staff, including Coach Saban, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson. By all accounts, Coach DeBoer has made promising hires to replace these departures, but the portal hemorrhaging has yet to slow down.

Bama will surely bring in reinforcements via the portal, and already has former USC cornerback Domani Jackson on board, but the depth of this group has been severely depleted. 

Jaylen Mbakwe could be counted on to play an important role from day one, making him one of the most important 2024 signees on the roster. The in-state talent will be lauded as a hero if he can supplement the Alabama secondary as a true freshman. 

3. Caleb Odom (4-star tight end)

When Alabama’s 2023 season ended just nine days ago, Caleb Odom was not necessarily a make-or-break piece in this class. After all, Odom and fellow 2024 signee Jay Lindsey were the seventh and eighth tight ends on the Tide's 2024 roster. Since then, two Bama tight ends have entered the transfer portal, including co-starter Amari Niblack. 

Niblack did well in the same pass-catching tight end role that Odom is projected to play, and likely would’ve been a major obstacle keeping Odom from getting on the field immediately. 

Odom is one of the most physically gifted receivers in the 2024 class and, as it stands, gives Alabama Football a unique dynamic on the perimeter. He will likely need to add weight before he can play a traditional tight end role in the SEC, but his high school film suggests that he can flex out wide and present a mismatch as early as this fall. 

Caleb Odom’s talent and ceiling alone necessitate that Bama keeps him around. The fact that Bama no longer has a player of his archetype on the roster makes him that much more important.