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Jumbo Package: Which portal addition will make the biggest impact in 2023?

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. Baseball took two from Texas A&M over the weekend, and softball got welcome news that they will be the 5th seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Of course, the status of Montana Fouts is unknown, and I’m not sure I remember a college team in any sport being more dependent on one player.

Nick Kelly took a look at some breakout candidates among the offensive skill players, and it should come as no surprise that Malik Benson is among them.

The top junior-college transfer drew considerable buzz in the spring and has a chance to be one of the next electric receivers to emerge from Alabama.

Benson has size, speed and athleticism and if he meets the hype could be a valuable play-maker early and often.

In the A-Day game, he caught five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, working with quarterback Jalen Milroe on the White offense, primarily made up of the first group.

“Benson’s had a really, really good spring and is capable of stretching the field and making big plays,” Saban said. “Good all-around player. He certainly is going to help us.”

If you want to get a little football fix, someone apparently leaked some video of Alabama passing drills over spring practice.

I’ll leave that for y’all to squint your eyes and analyze to death.

247sports ranks Tyler Buchner as Alabama’s most important transfer, though that seems dubious since we don’t even know that he will start. Pretty sure that Jaylin Key will, however.

Most expected Saban to slide Malachi Moore over to the safety spot following the exit of Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams to the NFL, but he just signed a player coming out of spring with 44 career appearances at the back end who’s heading into his sixth collegiate season. How’s that for an experienced center fielder? If he adjusts quickly during fall camp, Alabama could start Key and five-star freshman Caleb Downs at the safety spots and star Moore in the slot at Star, his more familiar position.

Safeties Kristian Story and DeVonta Smith have a say in Key’s playing time and where he fits within Kevin Steele’s defensive backfield. Key was one of the top players available coming out of the spring portal cycle and said he signed with the Crimson Tide because of the level of respect he had for Saban and Alabama’s coaching staff. He’s coming off his best season at UAB after finishing with 60 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss and three interceptions.

Benson and Key are both huge additions, though Benson doesn’t really count since he came from the juco ranks.

Tony Mitchell may get off light as a first offender and get to return to football, though he will surely have plenty of work to do in order to exit the doghouse.

Tony Mitchell Sr. moved near UA’s campus in February to be closer to Mitchell while his legal issues, which included his arrest video being released to the public, were resolved. The next step, Graham said, will be dealing with the “internal Alabama disciplinary system.”

That could potentially lead Mitchell to Alabama’s College Recovery and Intervention Services. Per its website, CRIS offers students “alcohol and other drugs (AOD) counseling ... to a vibrant Collegiate Recovery Community known as The University of Alabama Recovery Model.” The program educates members on the spiritual, psychological and financial impacts of addiction while also providing individual and family counseling, treatment planning and drug and alcohol testing.

Graham said Mitchell “reasonably has a chance” to enter the program, or a similar one, based on conversations Graham had with members of the University.

This is your reminder that decisions on off the field issues are often not left to the head coach to make unilaterally.

Kirby showed some respect to his old boss.

The 2013 Crimson Tide entered the year preseason No. 1. They went into the final week of the regular season unbeaten. The Kick Six sent Auburn, not Alabama, to the national title game against Florida State.

“I think you learn lessons. I mean, we won back-to-back and winning back-to-back was extremely hard then. It’s extremely hard now, and as you start to go on a journey for a third, the pressure just tends to build,” Smart told Finebaum. “We had good enough teams all those years to win it. Sometimes it takes a little luck. I mean, we got lucky against Ohio State (last year). We got lucky against Missouri in a game we didn’t play well. In the SEC, it takes a little luck and you have to have that.

“But what I learned from Nick was how to manage an organization, and he is tremendous at that. And look at what he’s done for the state of Alabama and even the city of Tuscaloosa. Nobody has impacted the state of Alabama like he has financially and giving back.”

Last, Brad Crawford thinks that Alabama is a bit underrated headed into the season.

At times last fall during Alabama’s 10-2 finish, it seemed the Crimson Tide lacked the usual toughness and aggression shown throughout Saban’s tenure. They’re getting back to that it seems with this 2023 group.

“I like this team’s toughness. I think they’re physical, they play hard,” Saban said after last month’s A-Day game, via BamaOnLine. “We don’t have a bunch of guys that are soft or looking for an easy way. They try to please the coaches. They try to play with intensity. I think we have better practice habits than we’ve had in the past. And I think that mentality gets developed in the offensive line, the defensive line and on special teams, and I think we have some guys that are trying to step up and do that.”

Let’s hope so, and that it adds a little extra juice for them.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.