Big opportunities for two Class 6A State Championship standouts

Clay-Chalkville's Jaylen Mbakwe (9) eludes Saraland's Jermaine Paramore, Jr., (88) and Camron
Clay-Chalkville's Jaylen Mbakwe (9) eludes Saraland's Jermaine Paramore, Jr., (88) and Camron / Mickey Welsh / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2023 AHSAA Class 6A state championship game back in December was an instant classic that saw Clay-Chalkvile take down Saraland by a score of 31-28 by way of a goal line stand. 

Both teams featured a lot of talent that will translate to the collegiate and maybe even professional levels, but two individuals stood out even on this big stage. Both Saraland’s Ryan Williams and Clay-Chalkville’s Jaylen Mbakwe will suit up for the Alabama Crimson Tide this fall. 

The pair scored four touchdowns apiece, combining to account for every touchdown in the title game. While Ryan Williams took home Alabama’s Mr. Football Award for the second-straight season, Jaylen Mbakwe got a state championship ring and was named MVP of the game. 

Mbakwe was a 5-star recruit who excelled on both sides of the ball in high school, and will play cornerback at Alabama. One of the highest-rated commits in this class, Mbakwe’s impact goes beyond what he can provide on the field. After initially committing to Coach Nick Saban back in July 2022, he never wavered in his commitment and became one of the vocal leaders of this recruiting class. He was instrumental in helping the new Crimson Tide coaching staff land Ryan Williams. 

Williams was also a 5-star recruit, even following his reclassification from the class of 2025. After dominating high school football in the state of Alabama for three years, he comes to Tuscaloosa preceded by a sizable reputation. He should be one of the most dynamic playmakers on the roster as soon as he steps on campus. 

These two 5-stars have more in common than their talent, their intertwined high school careers, and their close personal bond. Both come to Alabama as major additions at positions of need, and will have the opportunity to contribute right away. 

Ryan Williams is the kind of talent that may have been an instant-impact player regardless, but the departures of guys like Jermaine Burton and Isaiah Bond leave the door wide open in the receiver room. Sure, there are other quality players, but the assumption is that Williams has the highest upside in the position group, even at the age of 17.

Similarly, Jaylen Mbakwe could step right in at cornerback. Bama figures to send its two starting corners to the first round of the NFL Draft, and it lost some depth pieces to the transfer portal. He will have to beat out a couple of older players and maybe some more incoming transfers, but his status as an early enrollee should accelerate his development. 

There is a very good chance we see both Ryan Williams and Jaylen Mbakwe on the field in a starting capacity as true freshmen. The pair already put on one show in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and now we all get to see what they will do for an encore.