Alabama has lost a lot of players to the transfer portal since the retirement of Nick Saban. There’s been varying levels of panic about this from Alabama fans, but there’s another team in a similar situation right now — the Washington Huskies.
It just so happens that the Huskies are the runner-up to the national champions, and have now turned into something of a roster reinforcement pool for Alabama. The Tide already added supremely talented QB Austin Mack.
This weekend, the Tide got even better news: Alabama likely has their starting center for next season:
Alabama football received its second transfer portal commitment under new coach Kalen DeBoer late Saturday night when Washington center Parker Brailsford announced on his Instagram account he was committing to the Crimson Tide.
Brailsford started all 15 games during his redshirt freshman season in 2023 for a Washington offensive line that took home the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the nation’s best OL unit. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound lineman started 12 games at center and three at right guard. He is expected to play center at Alabama following the departures of starter Seth McLaughlin (transferred to Ohio State), backup Darrian Dalcourt (graduation) and potential starter Terrence Ferguson II (transferred to Florida State). Brailsford will have three years of eligibility remaining.
After an entire season of snapping issues, finding a new center had to be one of, if not the, top priority for new had coach Kalen DeBoer.
Parker Brailsford is that answer. The redshirt freshman started last season at guard before moving to center after the first couple of games of 2023. Brailsford became a first-team Freshman All-American and a second team All- PAC 12 player in his first season of college football. The first team center ahead of him was Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson, who’s projected to be a fringe first-round NFL prospect in this draft.
According to PFF grades (for whatever stock you put into those), he had both run blocking and pass blocking grades north of 81, and is the highest graded returning center in the entire country. In other words - this guy is GOOD.
Check out this article from a couple of months ago:
“A lot of people think scout team is a bad thing,” Brailsford said last spring. “It’s ‘Oh, I’m on the scout team. I’m not playing or whatever.’ But that’s the time you can work on all of your technique and work on everything you need to work on to be able to play. I’d say scout team [for me] is definitely a big factor.”
Brailsford now has those 13 Husky starts at two positions under his belt for an unbeaten and second-seeded CFP qualifier. So young and promising, he’s been singled out by the Pac-12 as one of its better players, something the Big Ten likely will claim next season, as well.
Asked if anyone had gotten the better of him this season, Brailsford pointed to a Big Ten player, Michigan State defensive tackle Simeon Barrow, for beating him off the ball. Yet he learned from it and this apparently didn’t hurt the Huskies any that day, because they won 41-7 in East Lansing, easily picking up the third win of their unbeatable run.
Mentality-wise, Brailsford was one of only 10 recruits to stick with the Huskies in 2022 after Jimmy Lake was fired and Kalen DeBoer took over. He redshirted his first season as DeBoer filled out his roster with more veteran transfer portal players, and took his time on scout time seriously to develop and hone his skills. That kind of dedication to sticking out a challenge and self-improvement is highly encouraging.
Most evaluations first talk about his athleticism as a pass blocker and pulling on outside runs as well as talking about his ability to continually improve and adapt throughout a game. A defensive tackle might beat him once, but that same thing won’t work again.
But despite his lighter weight (only 280 pounds), he’s also known to be exceptionally strong:
The precocious Brailsford could exceed all of them for early career accomplishments, for time served as a young guy. His coaches have marveled over his strength, which involves him being able to bench press more than 100 pounds over his body weight.
“He’s almost awkwardly strong for his size,” Grubb said. “He’s one of the more powerful guys in the room.”
What I keep reading about Brailsford keeps making me think about Alabama’s William Vlachos from earlier in Nick Saban’s tenure. A relentless worker who’s way stronger than his size would indicate.
Here are a few clips from his freshman season, courtesy of Brett Greenburg:
Man, look at all of those snaps being perfectly in time and in the correct place where the QB can just immediately do what he needs to do to get the play going.
Also the blocks are all quite impressive.
Brailsford should be considered the immediate starter for the Tide, and he’ll be flanked by Tyler Booker and Jaeden Roberts, and that might very well be the best interior trio of blockers in the country.
Of course, an OL is only as good as it’s weakest link and the Tide will still need to figure out the tackles, but getting the center position figured out puts them a step ahead of where they were in 2023 - and to be honest, where they’ve been since Landon Dickerson graduated in 2020.