Alabama Football: Will Kalen DeBoer use the portal like Nick Saban?

Missouri v Alabama
Missouri v Alabama / Brandon Sumrall/GettyImages

During his tenure with Alabama Football, Coach Nick Saban was very particular in the way he utilized the NCAA transfer portal. 

Coach Saban regularly had rosters stacked with blue chip talent due to his unmatched prowess on the recruiting trail. As a result, he never needed to build his team through the portal, a fate many schools have been resigned to over the past five years.

Instead, Coach Saban would use the portal to shore up deficiencies and fill gaps in the roster. Even when a program recruits consistently at an elite level, “holes” in a roster have become inevitable due to early NFL Draft entries and developmental prospects choosing to exit the program via the portal.

In response, Coach Saban, along with other coaches of elite, self-sustaining programs, have responded by cherry-picking top talent at positions of need. 

One of the most prominent examples was Alabama Football adding Jameson Williams from Ohio State in 2021 when it lacked a proven deep threat at receiver. A year later, it added Georgia Tech all-purpose back Jahmyr Gibbs when virtually the entire running back room was recovering from season-ending injuries.  

It remains to be seen if Coach Kalen DeBoer will have the luxury of using the portal in the same way. At least in year one, he will be dealing with a slightly different roster situation. In addition to the typical annual exodus of standouts to the NFL and reserves to the portal, Alabama Football has lost at least four starters to the portal as a result of Coach Saban’s retirement. This means that Bama has some extra holes to fill, and that is already evident in the way the Tide has used the transfer portal this offseason.

Alabama has already taken six incoming transfers this offseason, including three that committed to Coach Saban and three more that have committed to Coach DeBoer. This total is already one more transfer than Coach Saban ever took in a single offseason while at Alabama, as he accepted five transfers in both 2022 and 2023.

Given that the spring is expected to bring another round of portal chaos, Alabama Football could approach, or even surpass, 10 incoming transfers for the 2024 season. 

There is at least a decent chance that this year will prove to be an anomaly, occurring as a result of the massive changes within the program. If Coach DeBoer can get the ball rolling on the recruiting trail, with the help of general manager Courtney Morgan and Director of Recruiting Jatavis Sanders, Bama will be able to return to limiting its reliance on the portal.

Getting early signatures from such elite prospects as Ryan Williams and Noah Carter certainly sets the tone, and will help the new staff build momentum on the trail.