For the most part, none of these are too unexpected, as they are all players who can see the writing on the wall in regards to future playing time. So credit to each of them for sticking the season out until the end, rather than entering the portal halfway through.
Paul Tyson- QB
Tyson is set to graduate this spring and will have three years of eligibility wherever he goes. He was likely to be 4th on the depth chart next year with the continued development of Jalen Milroe and the incoming Ty Simpson. Plus, he got benched as the holder on special teams, so it was unlikely he’d ever see the field again. He’s a big-armed QB with a football bloodline who can make some great throws in the right system, and could very well make some team very happy.
King Mwikuta - OLB
The junior pass rusher made waves a couple of offseasons ago when multiple Alabama star linemen leaving for the NFL all name-dropped him as a guy to watch out for next season. A few years later, and Mwikuta has yet to see any meaningful playing time.
He entered the transfer portal last summer, but wound up deciding to stay with the Tide for the 2021 season, though he was passed up in summer camp by Drew Sanders, Dallas Turner, and Chris Braswell— all younger than him.
Drew Sanders - OLB
This is the most surprising one, though it is understandable. Sanders was a key backup as a freshman last year, and got the starting job after Chris Allen blew out his knee in the season opener. However, an arm injury sidelined Sanders for a month, and freshman Dallas Turner came in and lit up opposing QBs the second half of the season, effectively leaving Sanders as the 3rd guy off the bench even after recovering.
With Will Anderson leaving for the NFL after next year, Sanders would still be in line to start again as a senior (he could also move to tight end, where he was phenomenal in high school), but he’s apparently ready to go somewhere else immediately.
Tommy Brown - OL
A few years back, Brown came to Alabama from California as a highly regarded offensive tackle that many (me, in particular) expected to be a multi-year starter as a highly skilled pass blocker. It never really materialized, and he wound up becoming a top back-up at guard. He seemed in line to win a starting job in 2021 there, but wound up getting beat out by the younger Javion Cohen in the spring.
Jahleel Billingsley - TE
Man, what else can we even say about this guy? Billingsley burst onto the scene late in 2020 as an uber-athletic tight end, and came into his junior season with national pundits labeling him as a first round talent. Instead, he spent all of training camp in the doghouse and was constant topic in Saban’s press conferences.
He was pretty much benched at the start of the season in favor of the converted linebacker, Cam Latu. He did wind up getting somewhat back into the coaches’ good graces with an increased focus on blocking, but was ultimately a non-factor for most of the season before having a very, very rough game as both a blocker and receiver in the championship on Monday night.
The Tide will return Cam Latu and two second year guys in Robbie Ouzts and Caden Clark next season. Saban also went out and recruited Amari Niblack, a major athletic weapon of a tight end, and a more traditional blocking talent in Elijah Brown.
The increased transfer traffic was a fully expected side effect of the changing in legislation in the NCAA, and Alabama will also be in the market for bringing in new transfers. Georgia Tech star running back Jahmyr Gibbs and LSU cornerback and former 5-star Eli Ricks have both already joined Alabama.
There will likely be more departures from the Tide as older players find themselves falling down the depth chart to younger guys. So goes college football.