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Leaving & Staying: What Alabama Defense Might Look Like Next Season

Some tough decisions are coming up for several Crimson Tide players.

Alabama v LSU
Kool-Aid McKinstry will be back to anchor the defense in 2023.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Yesterday, we discussed the future of the Alabama offense. Today, it is the defense and the Crimson Tide loses much more than just Will Anderson.

Many Tide defenders have a bright future awaiting them in the NFL. Others will have to step up to fill their shoes. While others may decide to move on to other opportunities.

As mentioned yesterday, Nick Saban is not going to hand out bonus super senior scholarships to just anyone. Below is the best guess at who stays and who leaves the Alabama program after the season, broken down by position:

(Classes are the current statuses)


It seems you can never have enough of the big guys up front. Bama will lose some key players in this unit and need to rebuild.

  • Byron Young SR - NFL: Had a great year and should be drafted in a high to middle round.
  • DJ Dale SR - NFL: He has probably done all he can in college.
  • Justin Eboigbe SR - ? Was having a solid season until a devastating injury cut his season short in Game 5. If he can sufficiently heal, he could be a guy Saban brings back for a bonus year and it could improve his draft stock. Otherwise, he would have to gamble that an NFL is willing to draft him and wait for him to heal.
  • Jaheim Oatis FR - STAYING: Starter. The sky is the limit.
  • Tim Smith JR - STAYING: The 2020 Tennessee game was his first participation and he has not missed a game since. Two starts last year and six this year propel him to a likely full-time spot on the line in 2023.
  • Jamil Burroughs JR - STAYING: An expanded role in the rotation this year, potential starter.
  • Jah-Marien Latham R-SO - STAYING: Played in 11 games this season.
  • Damon Payne R-FR - STAYING: Made some impressive plays in a reserve role. Could be part of the regular rotation in 2023.
  • Monkell Goodwine R-FR - STAYING: Still young but needs to step up.
  • Tim Keenan R-FR - STAYING: Same as Goodwine.
  • Isaiah Hastings FR - STAYING: Grew up in Canada and played one year of US high school ball. He is still learning the game, but good potential.
  • Khurtiss Perry FR - STAYING: Young-un.
  • Anquin Barnes R-FR - ? Still young but has not played a down in two years.


Alabama loses a generational player but has some good ones remaining. In addition is incoming freshman Yhonzae Pierre and potentially Keon Keeley if he ever commits.

  • Will Anderson JR - NFL: Top 5 pick.
  • Dallas Turner SO - STAYING: All-American potential.
  • Chris Braswell JR - STAYING: Right behind Turner. The combo of them two will be solid.
  • Jeremiah Alexander FR - STAYING: Former 5-star had some pretty big names ahead of him this year, but should blossom in 2023.
  • Quandarrius Robinson R-SO - ? Has played a good deal of special teams.
  • Keanu Koht R-FR - ? He has played occasionally on special teams. 2023 will be a key year for him.
  • Demouy Kennedy JR - ? Suffered a knee injury versus Arkansas that knocked him out for the year. With Bama desperate for depth last season, he auditioned at running back. That is not usually a thing you do to a guy that you are developing on defense. He probably transfers.


A big question is who is going to start at Mike? Or better yet, who is good enough and smart enough to start at Mike? It is a tough position to play and most of the candidates are young. Might we see an incoming transfer?

  • Henry To’oTo’o SR - NFL
  • Jaylen Moody R-SR - OUT OF ELIGIBILITY
  • Deontae Lawson R-FR - STAYING: Started at Will against Tennessee and TAMU but missed the next two games with an injury. Also started the Iron Bowl. Finished 8th on the team in total tackles.
  • Kendrick Blackshire SO - STAYING: Played mostly special teams but has also worked his way into the defensive play.
  • Jihaad Campbell FR - STAYING: Huge potential.
  • Shawn Murphy FR - STAYING: Still young.
  • Ian Jackson R-FR - ? has not played much in two years.


Several guys who feel like they have been around for ever will be moving on, leaving a young but talented secondary behind. Any three of the incoming freshmen Caleb Downs, Jahlil Hurley, and Tony Mitchell could make some waves. This is another group that might need to hit up the transfer portal after spring camp.

  • Brian Branch JR - NFL: potential late first rounder or second.
  • Eli Ricks JR - NFL? Likely gone but ya never know.
  • DeMarcco Hellams SR - NFL: It doesn’t feel like Saban will bring him back for a bonus year.
  • Jordan Battle SR - NFL: Done all he can in college.
  • Kool-Aid McKinstry SO - STAYING: All-American potential.
  • Terrion Arnold R-FR - STAYING: A surprise starter this year, struggled some, but may be the second best returning CB.
  • Malachi Moore JR - STAYING? There are some Draftniks who say he’ll be drafted if he comes out this year. But he could use a good solid senior season to up his stock.
  • Jahquez Robinson JR - STAYING: Will battle for a starting job at CB.
  • DeVonta Smith SO - STAYING: Potential starter.
  • Kristian Story R-SO - STAYING: Potential starter at safety.
  • Earl Little FR - STAYING: Could step up to a larger role.
  • Jake Pope FR - STAYING: Turned some heads in fall camp but did not play this year (?).
  • Antonio Kite FR - STAYING: Still young.
  • Tre’Quon Fegans FR - STAYING: Still young.
  • Khyree Jackson SR - TRANSFER PORTAL: Due to injuries to others, he was thrust into the starting lineup of the National Championship Game last season but then went into Witness Protection. He was buried in the depth chart this year and suspended from the team a few weeks ago.


Saban tends to like having offensive players return kickoffs and defenders return punts.

  • Kool-Aid McKinstry SO - STAYING: Main punt returner has All-American potential at this position too.
  • Ja’Corey Brooks SO - STAYING: Jahmyr Gibbs returned 10 kickoffs for the Tide this season and Brooks ran back seven. Two others had one each. It could be wide open next year.
  • JoJo Earle SO - STAYING: Was the main punt returner in 2021 but had a few ball protection issues and then got a late start to this season recovering from an injury.
  • Isaiah Bond FR - STAYING: Potential return man candidate.
  • Aaron Anderson FR - STAYING: Another potential candidate.

The Transfer Portal is currently open to only Grad Transfers and players on teams who have fired their head coach. It opens for everyone on Monday, December 5.