As of Wednesday morning, the Alabama roster for the Sugar Bowl remains written in pencil.
There are a few factors to consider with the depth chart in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 31 meeting with Kansas State.
So far, 12 Crimson Tide players entered the transfer portal in the two days it’s been open for underclassmen. That number can and most likely will fluctuate as kickoff nears with one positional group hit harder than the rest.
Then there’s the question of opt-outs for the NFL draft. Alabama coach Nick Saban on Sunday said he hadn’t had those conversations with projected first-round picks Bryce Young or Will Anderson but both participated in team workouts the previous week.
In terms of transfer portal entries, the offensive side of the ball saw the bulk of Alabama’s outgoing players. That included five offensive linemen and three receivers.
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Of the three offensive linemen, three were on the two-deep depth chart with Javion Cohen as the lone starter. Damieon George started three games last year and was listed as the backup right tackle late in the season. Amari Kight was the backup left tackle who entered the Austin Peay game when graduating senior Tyler Steen went down. The other two in the portal — Tommy Brockermeyer and Tanner Bowles — were not on the two-deep depth chart.
With the group up front, the roster math is more of a question for next year. Starters Steen and Emil Ekiyor are graduating along with Darrian Dalcourt (starter at center before injuries), utility man Kendall Randolph and the five transfers leave a thin cupboard.
The receiver room is also taking a bit of a hit.
JoJo Earle was once the wideout of the future, even being compared to Jaylen Waddle by Saban last year as a freshman. Two injuries later, the Aledo, Texas product is in the portal. He’s ninth in the team in receptions with 12 for 155 yards after missing the first month of the season with a fractured foot.
Traeshon Holden exits as the wideout with the third-most receptions (25) and yardage (331) but his role had been trailing off late in the season. The junior didn’t see the field at LSU or Ole Miss after making the early-November trips before catching three balls against Austin Peay and hauling in a 27-yard touchdown in his final catch against Auburn.
Also transferring is Christian Leary, a sophomore with one catch this season.
Top targets are expected to play New Year’s Eve including Jermaine Burton and Ja’Corey Brooks who tied with a team-best 37 receptions each. Brooks is a sophomore while Burton is a draft-eligible junior should he opt for the NFL.
Running back Trey Sanders, once a five-star before a number of injuries, was the fourth option in the backfield before entering the portal.
On the defensive side, cornerback Khyree Jackson started at Texas this year and in the national title game loss to Georgia last season but was suspended late in the season while on special teams duty.
The only other defensive player in the portal at this point is Braylen Ingraham. The defensive lineman left the team over the summer after taking a medical retirement.
Who’s next is anyone’s guess.
Who’ll opt-out for the draft? Another good question.
The only other time this happened, only two sat out the Citrus Bowl following the 2019 season but this team has a few potential top-10 picks and a couple more in first-round contention.
Saban on Sunday said he sees this Sugar Bowl game as a big moment for young players building for the future.
“I think there’s going to be opportunities created for the bowl game,” Saban said. “And, you know, it’s a good opportunity for players to look forward not look backward in terms of what they have a chance to accomplish, what they have a chance to do and how we can use this time to help their development.”