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Jumbo Package: Gump Day!

Alabama kicker Will Reichard to return to school

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

The big news of yesterday came in the form of one very important kicker:

Alabama kicker Will Reichard announced Tuesday he has changed his mind about entering the 2023 NFL draft and instead will return to school for a fifth season.

Reichard made the announcement on Instagram, more than three weeks after accepting an invite to the Senior Bowl.

“After much prayer and guidance, I realized that I wasn’t ready to step away from Alabama football and the college experience,” he wrote. “I have decided to take advantage of my final year of eligibility and tee it up with my Crimson Tide teammates once more time in 2023.”

Will Reichard, after previously announcing he would enter the NFL draft, has decided to return to Alabama for a 5th season. Reichard is already Alabama’s career record holder in total points, and he’s only going to build on that lead.

For all of the many fan complaints about NIL, this is something that very likely factored into this decision. There are only 32 kickers in the NFL at a time, and most of them play late into their 30s and rarely get hurt. So breaking into the league is really tough. So taking another year at college, getting an extra degree, hopefully picking up another Championship, and getting paid while you’re at it is a pretty nice gig.

On the other hand, we also have one new player added to the early-declare list for the NFL:

Eli Ricks’ time at Alabama will end after one season of high expectations for the LSU transfer that largely went unmet.

Ricks declared for the NFL draft Tuesday, making the announcement on Instagram one day after three Tide juniors declared at a news conference and fellow junior Brian Branch followed later Monday.

“I want to thank coaches Nick Saban, T Rob [Travaris Robinson], Pete Golding and the entire Alabama staff that accepted me in as one of their own,” he wrote. “While here at Alabama, the staff has supported, pushed and developed me into the mature young man that I am today. I have learned just as many lessons off the field as on. The Alabama program exceeded my expectations and tested every limit that I set for myself.”

Ricks didn’t play all that much for the Tide in his one season, but he did show some impressive flashes in a couple of games - particularly the game vs Miss State and in the Sugar Bowl. He’s flashed talent, has great prototypical size, and had a season of really good production back in his freshman year at LSU.

It’s very possible some team gambles on the upside and takes him as high as round 2 or 3... Or he could very well go undrafted. I just don’t really have a good feel for where the league views him.

The transfer portal and NFL draft have touched every corner of Alabama’s roster since the end of the regular season, but the turnover is greatest in the secondary.

Expected departures by senior safeties Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams opened two starting jobs, and decisions by juniors Brian Branch and Eli Ricks to enter the draft added two more.

With Ricks adding his name to the list, Alabama is going to be breaking in a very new secondary. Kool-Aid McKinstry will return as the grizzled veteran, while guys like Malachi Moore and Terrion Arnold bring a good bit of prior starting experience. Past that, though, there’s a whole lot of open spots for young players to make their mark.

And looks like Earl Little is going to be gunning for an open spot. The freshman redshirted this year, and will be right in the thick of things to win a starting job next season.

And while we’re looking at replacements, check out one of the Tide’s future pass rushers:

ALPHA DOG: Yhonzae Pierre, EDGE, Eufala (Ala.) — Alabama signee

Throughout the two practice sessions, Pierre’s number repeatedly popped up in discussion of today’s standouts.

“Who’s that wearing 19 again? Oh yeah, that’s Yhonzae Pierre, duh.”

Pierre got several pressures during a few different 11-on-11 micro-scrimmage sessions, while also winning the strong majority of his 1-on-1 reps against what looks like one of the better West offensive line groups we have seen at the All-American Bowl.

Pierre wins with explosive initial athleticism, blowing by bigger, slower tackles or ripping under and around interior blockers. His only hiccup came against 6-foot-2, 310-pound fire hydrant Tyson Ruffins when the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Pierre repped from an interior D-line spot in 1-on-1 action. But start to finish, Pierre assembled the most consistently good day from what we saw during West practice. He punctuated his pass-rushing performance with a takeaway in the final 11-on session: Pierre leapt to bat down a pass and snagged the ball out of mid-air to take it the other way.

There’s been talk for a year among some of the beat reporters that Pierre is a recruit that’s been severely underrated by the recruiting services and should be in the conversation for the best pass rusher in the country in high school. We’ll see, but one can never have enough pass rushers.

It’s not so much that Alabama ran away or that Ole Miss gave up early. It was just a matter of the nation’s seventh-ranked team in its Southeastern Conference home opener overwhelming the Rebels. Bama broke open a first half to lead by 21 points and coasted in a foul-plagued second half to an 84-62 win in the Southeastern Conference home opener for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama improved to 12-2 overall and 2-0 in SEC play, while Mississippi fell to 8-6, 0-2 in the conference.

Alabama’s next game also in Coleman Coliseum is at Noon CST Saturday against Kentucky.

Alabama Coach Nate Oats said he was a “little disappointed” in Alabama’s finish, but added, “it’s a good spot to be in when that’s what you’re worried about.”

“If you’re going to compete for a championship, you have to win your home games.”

In hoops news, Alabama absolutely dominated the Rebels last night in a game that had them looking very much like the top-ten team that they are. The lack of turnovers was particularly encouraging for Tide fans, as it’s something that’s plagued pretty much every iteration of Alabama hoops under Nate Oats.