With National Signing Day just around the corner (February 5th, mark your calendars), I have seen many questions that follow the same theme: "How many players can we sign? How do our roster numbers look given the size of this class? etc." Given the interest in the subject, I thought it only makes sense to consolidate all of this information in a single piece, rather than have the answers spread out in the comment sections of various articles.
Let's start off with the more pressing question: How many players can we sign? The short answer is 26-27 is probably our limit. Any more than that, and you are looking at asking a current commit to greyshirt (delay enrollment and not sign on national signing day). To be honest though, this question is murky (as evidenced by the two number estimate on our limit). This is because both the SEC and NCAA "25-man" rules have a lot of workarounds (backcounting, greyshirting, etc.). For a more concrete analysis (and the real focus of this piece), we'll move on to the next question.
How do our roster numbers look given the size of this class?
The short answer here? Not great. NCAA bylaw 126.96.36.199 sets the scholarship limit at 85. There is a small work-around here with walk on athletes, but at present, there's really only one player that we know of that this applies to (Jai Miller). Let's establish our baseline by noting that last March we showed that Bama was almost certainly using every available slot in the 85-man roster. So with 85 as our baseline, here are the numbers of players we lost since the season ended:
- 7 fifth year seniors
- 4 fourth year seniors with exhausted eligibility
- 5 guys that declared early for the draft
- 2 scholarship transfers (LaMichael Fanning and Alvin Kamara) (Luke Del Rio doesn't count in this discussion, as he was a walk on)
That totals up to a total loss of 18 guys. We already have 24 commitments, and for the sake of this analysis, we'll assume that Bama will end up signing the "full" class of 27 possible. That means if we signed all 27 today, the roster would be nine guys too big. Factor in Coker coming in in the fall, and that number jumps to ten too big. So where will those open slots come from?
Bama has two guys on roster that are not starters but have degrees in hand - Anthony Orr and Wilson Love. Given they have their degrees, I would expect their careers may be over. That leaves eight more slots, and this is where things get tough. We do have a glut at running back and quarterback, so I could see us losing one more at each spot possibly. Alec Morris at QB is probably the most likely of anyone on the roster to transfer at this point, I would think, and while I would guess Tyren Jones would be the most likely running back to transfer, it would surprise me for him to make that move.
So here's the final tally - if we sign 27 (and they all qualify academically), Bama will basically have to cut eight guys that don't have their degrees yet. I want to emphasize that there really isn't any wiggle room here. No amount of backcounting/sleight of hand helps with these final numbers. Unless some of the 16 unenrolled current commits are going to take a greyshirt (and not sign on national signing day), those slots will have to come from the current roster.
I'm not really going to speculate further on who those eight players might be, as that doesn't really seem fair to them, but I will pose the question to you all - what do you think about this? How does this sit with you all? I've been a vocal opponent of the oversigning.com crowd for a while, but to be honest, when the numbers start to get this loose, our position starts to creep towards being untenable.