Alabama Football: Two glaring positions of need heading into spring practice

Alabama v Auburn
Alabama v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

Alabama Football has undergone seismic changes since the conclusion of the 2023 season, starting with the retirement of legendary Coach Nick Saban and a staff overhaul following the hire of new coach Kalen DeBoer. 

The end of any college football season in the modern age brings with it lots of roster turnover, and the Crimson Tide were not immune to these changes. If anything, the unexpected coaching change resulted in even more roster flux for the Tide.

NFL Draft entries, a dramatic finish to the 2024 recruiting class, and transfers both entering and exiting the program forced Bama fans to re-evaluate the roster virtually on a daily basis. Now that National Signing Day and the 30-day transfer window applied to Alabama’s roster have officially passed, we finally have a good picture of what the roster will look like, at least through spring ball.

All in all, Kalen DeBoer did about as good as one could ask in his first month as the head coach at the University of Alabama. That month consisted primarily of recruiting and roster management, which Coach DeBoer had to figure out on the fly while getting acclimated to his new home and becoming acquainted with the hundreds of people the Alabama Football coach must know. 

With the major exception of Caleb Downs, DeBoer retained just about everybody of note on the roster. A handful of players took advantage of the transfer portal window before DeBoer was even hired, and a couple more left following the announcement.

Some of these transfers were starters and were significant losses, but I would argue that all except Downs are replaceable. Coach DeBoer has already brought in several additions that could be quality replacements, or even upgrades, to the Bama roster. 

Where does the Alabama roster stand heading into spring?

Bama features several positions that return plenty of talent and experience from the 2023 roster, including quarterback, running back, offensive guard, defensive line, and inside linebacker. It has also made additions to its roster that have bolstered position rooms like center and wide receiver. When taken as a whole, the roster has just two glaring holes. 

Offensive tackle is a big question mark heading into this spring, and competition should be fierce between a collection of former blue-chip recruits. Redshirt sophomore Elijah Pritchett is now the old man in the room; he had some struggles when getting first-team opportunities at left tackle, but he was a young, developing player who saw time in every game in 2023.

The former 5-star recruit will have a chance to step up at one of the tackle spots, but he will be challenged by several second-year players. Redshirt freshmen Olaus Alinen, Miles McVay, and Wilkin Formby were all 4-star recruits who did a lot of learning as freshmen in 2023. All three are back to compete for a starting job, along with Texas A&M transfer Naquil Betrand, another redshirt freshman. 

Cornerback is another position that is essentially absent of depth and experience. USC transfer Domani Jackson saw starters reps during his two years in Los Angeles, but SEC Football will be a different animal for the junior. Jackson is a high-upside athlete who was a top-5 player in the country coming out of high school. 

Jahlil Hurley was a highly-rated player in his own right, and the redshirt freshman may have a slight advantage given that he is the only returning scholarship corner from the 2023 roster. Sure, the slate is essentially wiped clean with a new coaching staff, but Hurley is at least familiar with the campus, the facilities and his teammates. He and Jackson will attempt to fend off a loaded crop of freshmen, including 5-stars Jaylen Mbakwe, Zay Mincey, and Zabien Brown

While both of these position rooms lack experience and proven production, both have plenty of talent. Additionally, Coach DeBoer has proven that he won’t hesitate to go into the portal if necessary. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if one or both of these positions end up not being a concern at all.