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Jumbo Package: In the Portal era, who’s staying is every bit as important as who’s leaving

And rumors are abounding on some unexpected news

NCAA Football: Austin Peay at Alabama Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve covered Portal losses extensively here over the last week. There is a lot of bad advice being doled out to a lot of players, combined with the “greener pastures”-impatience that NIL has produced — as though FOMO weren’t already a huge enough problem at many positions.

But an equally relevant part of that roster equation concerns the 80% or so of players who decided to honor their commitment and stick around. To that end, there is a flurry of rumor abounding regarding two veteran players staying in Tuscaloosa.

The first is the alleged return of Jermaine Burton. Burton did not have the season that he wanted, that’s for sure. He was T-1st in catches among WRs alongside Ja’Corey Brooks. And his stat-line is almost identical to Brooks. But 37 catches, six touchdowns, and about 600 yards is about half the production he was likely looking at reeling in. The point of Alabama was to showcase that he can be a productive wide receiver and get into the NFL. But he and Brooks both have output far closer to WR2 than WR1 at the moment.

If both return (and again, Burton is rumored only), then the battle for WR1 is going to be fierce in the Spring. The return of two veterans on the outside. after the losses Alabama has sustained to the portal, would be a tremendous benefit to a team breaking in 60% of a new offensive line and a new signal caller.

You know what else would help? If Alabama’s outstanding Tyler Steen would return for his final season. That would give the Tide some continuity and quality players at both tackle spots for the first time in a few seasons...which in turn would also help bring a new QB along. (Latham and Steen were rock stars this year, frankly. It was the interior that was a mess. Again).

It’s rumored that is exactly what is being weighed right now too, with NFL front office types strongly encouraging Steen to stick around for one last ride.

EDIT: Now Brett Greenberg has picked up TDAM’s rumored report that Burton is staying. So, either this is going to happen, or someone’s getting a lot of egg on their face.

One player that won’t be throwing balls to Burton, or being protected by Steen, is UNC QB Drake Maye.

Many thought that he was a package deal with UNC OC Longo (who accepted a job with Sconnie yesterday), or that he would come back to Tuscaloosa — the school he had originally committed to. (Speaking of OC, the other guy I wanted for the position, Garret Riley, just won the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant. Sigh.)

But, Maye announced his return to Chapel Hill yesterday. And honestly, given the guys Alabama has coming in, as well as who’s already in the program, that’s probably the best long-term outcome for everyone.

In football terms, Maye is also sort of a crapshoot. He’s looked great against soup cans, but he’s been far, far less effective against the few quality teams he’s faced in the ACC. That has to be a tremendous red flag to suitors...and the NFL.

Overall, he finished 13th in the country in passing efficiency. He’s threw 35 TDs, 7 INTs (3500 yards, about 8 YPA), and completed 67% of his attempts. But against teams with a winning record his efficiency plummets all the way to 44th — his YPA plunged to 5.6, he threw just 6 TDs to 3 INTs, and he was just a 57% passer.

He was really doing his dirty work against UNC’s ghastly non-con schedule that was ranked 99th in the country (9.5 YPA, 1200 yards, 16 TD, 1 INT). He was 7th in the nation against them. But even the generous secondaries in the ACC couldn’t disguise all the issues. His QBE drops almost 40 points, and he has a 3:1 TD/INT ratio.

I’m honestly fine with this, and TBH was never really sold on bringing in another Portal that position, at least.

Boy, that guy really sucked...

Yesterday, the best player in the country repeated as the SEC’s Defensive Player of the year, despite protests by Gumps that he was invisible. It was the first time a player has won the award B2B:

This season, Anderson has recorded, 51 tackles, 10 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hurries and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown. The linebacker leads the SEC in both sacks and tackles for loss, and he is tied for seventh place nationally with 10 sacks and is in 10th place in TFLs. Now up to 62 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks, Anderson is second on UA’s career lists for both defensive categories, trailing only the late Derrick Thomas.

Anderson is the first player to be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in consecutive seasons since the award’s inception in 2003. It also marks the third straight year a Crimson Tide player has taken home the award, with cornerback Pat Surtain II winning it in 2020.

The “disappearing, loafer” also claimed the Lombardi Trophy last night, which is given annually to the nation’s best lineman, who also displays character and discipline, in keeping with Vince Lombardi.

Special assistant to the head coach Sal Sunseri presented Anderson at Wednesday’s banquet.

“What I want you to do is visualize watching National Geographic and they’re doing a special on a cheetah because this is what you have here,” Sunseri said. “You have a total dominant animal who all you have to do is to teach him that’s your prey. I had the fortune for the last three years to take this young man and you can see his explosiveness, just like his cheetah.

“You can see his agility, just like that cheetah. You can see the quickness, the speed, the determination, the relentlessness of grabbing that throat and killing it. Because all I had to do with this young man is say, ‘Will, this is where I want you to go to. Don’t let anybody stand in your way.’ And he got it done.”

If you’re keeping track at home, that “down year” of 2022 has seen Will net another First Team All-SEC selection, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, the Lombardi Award, another Bronko Nagurski award as the Nation’s Outstanding Defensive Player...and he’s a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Trophy given out on Dec. 12th, where he is Vegas’s favorite to win the Defensive Heisman.

Throw in likely unanimous All-American and a good shot at AP Defensive DPOTY, and it’s been a very rough season for the slacker who wasn’t very visible.

I guess he’ll just have to settle with being one of the first three players off the board and nine-figure paychecks.

Yes, the snark is heavy, because sometimes Alabama fans just flat out show their ass. And the discourse around Anderson this year has pinned some donkey ears on more than a few Gumps.

Fight me in the comments.

We’ve been beating this horn for a while now, but that 2020 and 2021 Crootin’ classes had more than their share of busts, transfers, and guys that simply haven’t panned out.

Casagrande finally got around to delving deeper into it (thanks for reading, Mike!), and what he unearths in this piece on the “curious case” of the 2021 Class in particular is fascinating.

And depressing.

His overall assessment is “work in progress / too early to tell.” But I think we’ve seen this play out enough to know that when you’ve got a dozen guys disappearing on the depth chart, transfer rumblings, locker room malcontents and the like, that it usually is endemic to the entire class — a handful may be impactful players.

Not every year can you hit on a 2017 just hope that you don’t get 2021 classes too often. My larger issue is that Alabama had them B2B, on top of several years of whiffs on the offensive line, and far less success in the secondary and DL than we’d like to see.

Coaching turnover and lack of in-person eval have been devastating.

I speculated on this last week, and it looks my Gumpstradamus was pretty strong: UA’s Safety coach, Charles Kelly, will be departing Tuscaloosa to join Coach Prime’s staff in Boulder.

It really seemed a no-brained to me: great recruiter with substantive DC experience, who wanted to get back to calling the shots, greater familiarity with the 4-3 scheme, and he’s a ‘Nole. That was too perfect to not happen.

I’m sure CB will have more on this later, but Bama softball dropped its 2023 schedule today. I shall leave analysis of it up to him.

That’s it for now. Not sure what else we have for you today, but enjoy and Roll Tide.


Will Anderson is...

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A slacker
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    A loafer
    (10 votes)
  • 2%
    (34 votes)
  • 7%
    (91 votes)
  • 87%
    A generational talent who "merely" had one of the five best seasons among all Nick Saban defenders in the past 16 years, and whose impact is not always determined by a stat sheet.
    (1067 votes)
1213 votes total Vote Now