Projecting Who's Staying and Who's Leaving from Alabama After Bowl Game
For the 15th straight year, Alabama has collected 10-plus victories and dropped no more than three games. The 45-20 win over Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl wrapped up the Crimson Tide's season at 11-2.
For about 96 percent of FBS programs, that's a fine season. Relative to Bama standards, however, 2022 was a failure.
Nick Saban's program didn't win an SEC championship or reach the College Football Playoff for only the second time in the last decade. An early November loss to LSU ended Alabama's hopes of redemption after losing to conference foe Georgia in the national title game last season.
When the Crimson Tide sprint on to the field in 2023, the roster will be significantly different, as quarterback Bryce Young and edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr. leave Tuscaloosa and a new wave of top talent will arrive.
One important asterisk is that several of these players have eligibility left because the 2020 season didn't count as an athletic year. However, key seniors such as guard Emil Ekiyor, tight end Cameron Latu, defensive linemen Byron Young and DJ Dale, linebacker Henry To'oTo'o and safeties DeMarcco Hellams and Jordan Battle all could head to the NFL.
In addition to the seniors, Alabama is set to lose a couple of superstars. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young might be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, and edge-rusher Will Anderson Jr. shouldn't be far behind. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs and defensive backs Brian Branch and Malachi Moore are candidates to leave, too.
While the reaction might be to play the world's smallest violin, this has been a legitimately tough stretch for Alabama in the portal. Starting guard Javion Cohen transferred to Miami, and previous 4-star linemen Tommy Brockermeyer, Amari Kight and Tanner Bowles also bolted. The receiving corps took a sizable hit with the departures of Traeshon Holden, Aaron Anderson, JoJo Earle and Christian Leary, as well.
Who's Probably Staying?
Key Sophomore Defenders
While a dozen-plus Alabama players will likely chase the NFL, that journey is at least a year in the future for edge-rusher Dallas Turner and cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry. Turner had 18 tackles for loss in two seasons prior to the Sugar Bowl, and McKinstry earned third-team All-America honors in 2022.
Ja'Corey Brooks, WR
Well, at least he's still here! Alabama seems destined for a new-look receiver corps, but Ja'Corey Brooks gives the Tide a decent foundation. Entering Saturday, he grabbed 37 passes for team-high outputs of 623 yards and seven touchdowns in his sophomore year. While the Tide certainly need him to develop into a greater threat, Brooks is a very talented receiver.
Returning from Injury
Alabama sure would have liked to use receiver Tyler Harrell more often in 2022. Unfortunately for Harrell and the Tide, a foot injury sidelined the Louisville transfer for much of the season. On the defensive side, Alabama will presumably have cornerback Earl Little Jr. and linemen Justin Eboigbe and Isaiah Hastings available next year, too.
Who's on the Way?
The rich are indeed set to become richer. During the early signing period, Alabama landed a quartet of 5-star defenders. The list includes safety Caleb Downs and defensive linemen Keon Keeley, James Smith and Qua Russaw.
Top Running Backs
Additionally, the Crimson Tide picked up two of the nation's four highest-rated running backs. Five-star Justice Haynes is the featured player, though Richard Young is also a top-50 prospect. As usual, the talent in Alabama's backfield should be close to preposterous with Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams expected to return in 2023.
Tight end CJ Dippre, who's moving over from Maryland, is the only incoming transfer so far.