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Jumbo Package: Alabama loads up in NCAA Free Agency

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Transfers, transfers, transfers. The Tide just continues to build their roster with the best in the country.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

“The young guys who have come in have all been really hungry,” Young said. “That’s something we appreciate here, guys who come in ready to work, wanting to take every rep, wanting to get coached.

“It’s a complicated offense when you’ve just come from high school. There are going to be adjustments.”

When there are the inevitable mistakes of spring practice, “what I love about this young group is everything they do, they do full speed. When they mess up there’s no finger-pointing, no blaming. They come back and want to get coached.”

He said, “It’s great to see a mistake that was made on the first or second day of practice get corrected the next practice. I think they’re all trending in the right direction.”

Drops were one of the largest problems on last year’s Alabama teams (and arguably lost them a national championship win), and has, again, been noted by Nick Saban as still being an issue early on this spring.

Bryce Young, though, is pretty upbeat about the progress of a revamped group of receivers.

Interestingly, though, a new name has surfaced as a potential addition to a wide receiver room with no returning starters:

Tyler Harrell, who is arguably one of the fastest players in all of college football, has entered his name into the transfer portal, according to a report from On3’s Matt Zenitz. A source told Louisville Report that it is widely anticipated Harrell will transfer to Alabama.

Harrell is now the fourth Cardinals wide receiver to hit the portal this offseason, joining Jordan Watkins, Justin Marshall and Demetrius Cannon. He was one of just four scholarship wideouts slated to return for next season.

After playing in just three total games over the course of his first three years on campus, including none in 2020, the 6-foot, 197-pound receiver had a breakout redshirt sophomore season. On just 18 total receptions, he logged 523 yards and a team-best six touchdowns.

A native of Miami, Fla., he regularly beat safeties and other defensive backs over the top with his elite speed. During a Pro Day style event last offseason, head coach Scott Satterfield said that he ran a hand-timed 4.19 40-yard dash.

While Harrell isn’t the proven SEC receiver like Jermaine Burton, he’s a dangerous deep threat player with a lot of untapped potential — very similar to where Jameson Williams was a year ago. 523 yards on only 18 catches is downright nutty.

He’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on if Saban isn’t totally pleased with where the receiver room is after the A-Day game.

“The amount of linemen we’ve had and the amount of reps they’ve gotten is something I’ve never seen before,” quarterback Bryce Young said Tuesday. “They’ve done it all without complaining.”

Alabama lost both of its starting tackles in Evan Neal and Chris Owens to the NFL draft this offseason and also has been without incumbent starting center Darrian Dalcourt and starting right guard Emil Ekiyor because of injuries, as well as backup center James Brockermeyer.

“When spring’s over, we’re going to get Darrian and E, we’re going to get James back, and now we’re going to get one more,” Young said.

Like Jameson Williams and Henry To’o To’o last offseason, Alabama has made the college equivalent of professional free-agent signings by adding Steen as well as running back Jahmyr Gibbs, wide receiver Jermaine Burton and cornerback Eli Ricks this offseason. In each case, the new players bring experience to position groups that lost some to the NFL draft and add competition on top of the players already within the program.

“It’s really big. Anytime we can get help at a position like that, it’s huge,” Young said. “It’s definitely going to help with our depth. I’m excited for him to come in.”

Young also talked a bit about the offensive line and the addition of graduate transfer Tyler Steen. If drops were a big issue for the Tide in 2021, offensive line in general was an even bigger one. And with multiple injuries, Saban has talked a bit about the unit needing some work, and this is about as close as you’ll get to Bryce saying the same.

So being able to bring in Steen could be a breath of fresh air for a unit starved for depth, health, and experience.

Moody is motivated to lock down a starting spot in his final season in crimson, and that started in 2021 when he watched Brian Robinson, a fifth-year senior, take advantage of an extra year.

“Having a chance to see Brian this season and how he handled everything, it really has helped me and motivated me to go about my business the right way,” Moody said. “He handled it very maturely, and to see him just wait his turn, grind and stay focused helped me to stay the course and be ready for when anything happens or when my time comes, I can be ready for any situation.”

Moody was a 3-star recruit that was a late addition to the Crimson Tide’s 2018 signing class. He has since played in 50-plus games and now has an opportunity to compete for a first-team job. As he continues to prepare for his fifth and final season at the collegiate level, Moody reflected on his recruitment and what the Alabama program has meant to his development.

“Coming here helped me progress as a player to grow into the potential that I feel like I really have in myself and be the good player that I know I can be,” Moody said. “Alabama has transformed me into the player that I am today, the man that I am today. Just the experiences that I’ve learned and being here helped model me into the man I am today. I feel like there’s so much more to grow, and the sky’s the limit.”

Moody has been a favorite of mine for years now, and while I was excited for the addition of Henry To’o To’o last year, it also bummed me out a little that Moody lost out on the shot to be a starter. So when the Tide managed to retain him for a 5th year, I’ve been excited ever since.

Of course, sophomore Deontae Lawson is going to be really, really tough to keep on the bench... But I’m beyond happy that Moody finally has his shot to win the job.

After more than two months in the transfer portal, Camar Wheaton has found a new home.

The former Alabama running back committed to SMU on Tuesday afternoon, he announced via Twitter. Wheaton initially entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Wheaton, a true freshman, did not see the field during the Crimson Tide’s 2021-22 season. He sustained a meniscus injury in practice, according to head coach Nick Saban, and was not able to practice for much of the fall schedule, redshirting his first year at the collegiate level.

“Camar Wheaton got injured in practice, and he was a really good young player that people don’t know about yet,” said Saban during an early-September radio show. “… He was a real speedster and really a guy that could have probably been helpful to us this year, as well.”

For a 5-star player, Wheaton’s weird injury and subsequent disappearing act seemed to go a bit under the radar with Alabama fans. I suppose we’ll never know what really went down with Wheaton, but it’s disappointing that the Tide lost a 5-star talent.

Alabama landed arguably the top point guard available from the Transfer Portal last week in Ohio product Mark Sears. The Muscle Shoals, Ala. made it official with the Crimson Tide on Tuesday, signing his name on the dotted line.

We are excited to welcome Mark and his family to the Alabama basketball program,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said in a University release. “Our entire staff felt like Mark was one of the best overall guards available in the transfer portal, so we really went after him hard. He is a high character kid with great basketball feel who is a perfect fit for the way we want to play. He shoots the ball really well, he’s a great decision-maker and is terrific in transition. On top of that, Mark is an Alabama kid who is excited to come back to his home state and play in front of family and friends. I think our fans will have a lot of fun watching him next season and he is a big addition for us.”

Sears’ intent to transfer to Alabama was already known, but it’s now official, and Nate Oats has his first open slot filled with a shiny new transfer. Sears brings veteran experience and strong scoring potential in the lane to Alabama’s backcourt. With all of the departures at the end of the season, there are still a few more spots available for Oats to pull in new transfers as well.