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Jumbo Package: Alabama Crimson Tide Student Athletes look to Capitalize on NIL Ruling

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None of Alabama’s football players are even in the top-3 most-followed athletes on campus

NCAA Division 1 Women’s College World Series - Game 14 - Florida State v Alabama Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Ahhhh, the annual “release-the-violations-list-right-before-a-holiday-weekend:”

Alabama’s athletics department on Thursday released its annual list of minor NCAA recruiting violations, which included five reported “Level 3″ infractions from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

One violation involved the football program and was reported June 11, days after the NCAA’s ban on in-person recruited was lifted.

The school said a student host provided an official visitor with transportation and entertainment outside of the 30-mile radius from campus. As a result, the student host and prospect repaid to charity the travel and entertainment costs associated with the impermissible activity, while education was provided to the student-athlete.

Seriously, though, this is about as impactful as a window AC unit sitting in the parking lot during an Alabama summer.

The football violation was some recruit getting a meal outside of a certain geographical radius, and the folks involved had to pay it back to charity. The others were a couple of email and social media no-nos from the gymnastics, softball, and soccer teams.

Alabama’s depth at linebacker appears to be taking a hit as one of the program’s upperclassmen has entered the NCAA transfer portal.

After two seasons in Tuscaloosa, rising junior King Mwikuta has entered the portal database. This news was first reported by Matt Zenitz of On 3 Sports.

Of course, if there’s a position the Crimson Tide could afford to lose a player or two, it’s at linebacker as Alabama projects to have one of the deepest linebacking corps in the nation this season.

Mwikuta was one of those guys that we’d heard about from upperclassmen multiple times over the last couple of offseasons, but he was never able to crack the lineup. The emergence of freshman phenom Will Anderson last season kept Mwikuta on the bench, and him now deciding to transfer likely means good things for other second-year players like Chris Braswell and Drew Sanders.... Or maybe even incoming freshman Dallas Turner.

Alabama wide receiver Traeshon Holden became the first Tide football player to announce a marketing deal early Thursday morning, shortly after state and NCAA rules were loosened to allow college athletes to be paid for endorsements.

Holden, a sophomore, posted a message to Instagram shortly after midnight saying he was partnering with Yoke gaming, an app that allows people to play video games with athletes. Former Notre Dame tight end Nic Weishar co-founded the company.

And so begins a new era.

In case you missed it, check out Erik’s comments on the new NIL rulings yesterday. It’s going to be a real wild west, and I’m equally fascinated and terrified to see what happens and where things go. I also can’t wait to hear Nick Saban’s thoughts and his approach to this new world when he next speaks to the media. I’m sure he’s been preparing for this for years, and will be on the forefront of making sure his athletes get every drop of value out of it possible.

That list begins not with a football player but with junior men’s basketball guard Jahvon Quinerly, who appears to top Tide athletes in both Instagram followers (450,000) and Twitter followers (38,600). That is more than five times the Instagram followers of any Alabama football player and double the top football player’s followers on Twitter.

Incoming freshman guard JD Davison — a former five-star recruit, like Quinerly — is another potential marketing force on Instagram, boasting almost 350,000 followers. And guard Nimari Burnett, a former McDonald’s All-American who transferred this offseason from Texas Tech, has more than 58,000 followers on that platform. That is more than all but three football players.

Alabama’s top returning softball star also bests any football player in Instagram and Twitter followers. Pitcher Montana Fouts, whose stardom exploded with a perfect game in the Women’s College World Series last month, has 112,000 followers on Instagram and 26,000 on Twitter in addition to more than 129,000 fans on TikTok. Softball teammate Jenna Johnson has a sizable Instagram following of 34,900.

And, hey, with players looking to get paid due to popularity, then suddenly social media following is pretty big deal. Jahvon Quinerly, JD Davison, and Montana Fouts are the top three active Alabama student-athletes in the social media realm right now.

For football, QB Bryce Young is predictably the most followed, but in a bit of a twist, freshman linebacker Kendrick Blackshire is next. The dude looks like a bodybuilding model wearing football pads, and got a lot of fame on Instagram from that a year ago.

True freshman offensive tackle JC Latham, a five-star out of IMG Academy in Florida, now wears the No. 65 for Alabama. At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Latham is a much different build than some of the other hogs who wore the number before him.

Deonte Brown, 6-4, 350 pound interior offensive lineman, wore it for the five previous seasons dating back to 2016. Before him, it was former first-round NFL draft pick Chance Warmack, who wore it from 2009-12.

65 days to Alabama football! Only two months to go.

J.C. Latham will be right in the thick of the competition to take over at right tackle, and Saban has never been shy about starting a true freshman at either tackle spot over the years. However, Latham also has ANOTHER five-star freshman to compete with in Tommy Brockermeyer, plus a bevy of other talented returners.

Alabama is ridiculously deep in offensive line talent right now, and that is a GREAT problem to have.

Finally, here’s a piece from Michael Casagrande looking at the whole of Alabama sports in 2020-2021 and making an argument for it being the best year ever for the university:

In terms of balance, the 2020-21 athletic seasons were arguably among the best in memory for the Crimson Tide program. Of course, you can make a case for a few others — notably 2011-12 — but the number of teams that experienced success sets this year apart.

Nine different teams were ranked in the top-10 of their respective sports at one point in their season.

Six finished the season in the top 5 of national rankings.

Four won SEC titles.

And if intra-state competition matters, Alabama was 13-4 in head-to-head meetings with Auburn.

The undefeated football team claimed the lone national title of the 11 dizzying months within the pandemic era. That doesn’t compare favorably with 2011-12 when four teams brought crowns back to Tuscaloosa — football, gymnastics, women’s golf and softball.

There’s a good bit more info in the article if you want to read it all before making a decision. As for me? I think I’m still going to vote for 2011-2012. Four national championships was just awesome... even if the men’s basketball team was nowhere near what we got with Nate Oats and his crew this season.

Poll

What was the best year for The University of Alabama in terms sports success?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    2011-2012
    (197 votes)
  • 35%
    2020-2021
    (110 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (explain in the comments)
    (4 votes)
311 votes total Vote Now