Since Nick Saban’s retirement, transfer rumors have been circling around Alabama’s football program. However, a number of important players who have chosen to stay told ESPN on Wednesday that there was optimism at the football complex regarding what new coach Kalen DeBoer would bring.
Decontae Lawson, the starting inside linebacker for Alabama who chose to return for his redshirt junior season rather than enter the NFL draft, said, “We’ve had some guys leave and wish them well, but that doesn’t change the standard at Alabama or our belief that Coach DeBoer is going to lead us where we want to be, winning championships.” “We are aware of our potential and that he has triumphed in all of his endeavors. This is something we are going to continue. We are prepared to welcome the wonderful story that lies ahead.”
Saban, who had a legendary 17-year career at Alabama and six national titles, was replaced by DeBoer last week. This offseason, the Crimson Tide have added 25 players to their roster, including offensive tackle Kydyn Proctor and safety Caleb Downs on Wednesday. This season, both players were named to the Freshman All-America team. On Sunday, receiver Isaiah Bond moved to Texas.
Tyler Booker, a junior offensive guard who has started for Alabama since his freshman year, is aware that players come and go in the transfer portal/NIL era of college football, particularly with the retirement of a coach of Coach Saban’s caliber.
“I want to wish them well in their future endeavors, but the absence of Coach Saban does not imply a drop in standards. He imparted that standard to us,” Booker remarked. “The main question is, ‘What brought you to the school?'” Obviously, my main reason for coming to Alabama was to play for Coach Saban, to meet his standards, to be held accountable by my teammates, the people in this building, and the fans, and to be challenged daily.
“I couldn’t leave Alabama and my legacy here, no matter how much money tried.”
Quarterback Jalen Milroe, who placed sixth in the 2023 Heisman Trophy voting, is excited to be a part of DeBoer’s offensive scheme.At Washington, Michael Penix Jr. flourished under DeBoer and Ryan Grubb, the new offensive coordinator for Alabama. After coming from Indiana, Penix passed for 9,544 yards and 67 touchdowns in the last two seasons.
According to Milroe, “Coach DeBoer is among the most successful and accomplished offensive-minded college football coaches.” “The team benefits from his positive energy and coaching style and approach.”
The most adaptable defensive back in Alabama and permanent team captain Malachi Moore noted that during DeBoer’s first meeting with the team last Friday, among the things that most impressed him was the team’s energy.
Moore, a fifth-year senior, said, “You could feel that energy, the positive energy, and also how open he was to listening to our opinions, the players’ opinions.” As players, we completed our own homework. The guy has triumphed everywhere. His goal is the same as ours: to raise the trophy at the conclusion of the season. He has a grudge because he came just one win short the previous year. Given how the season concluded, we most certainly have one on ours.
“This time, we’re pursuing the same objective with his vision.”
DeBoer made clear to the players that being a family would be one of the “non-negotiable” things for Alabama’s team.
Booker declared, “We’re going to win together.” “We are better together the closer we are.”
Although it might “seem a little rough right now” with some of the players leaving, Lawson, who finished second on the team with 67 total tackles the previous season, said that the players who have stayed have grown closer as a result of this transition.
Lawson stated, “As a group, we want to finish what we started and have embraced the change.” We’re not escaping change. We understand and are willing to commit to this plan. Coach DeBoer and the new coaches he’s bringing in have our complete trust.”
Booker, who performed at the IMG Academy in Florida, is originally from New Haven, Connecticut. In 2022, he was ranked as the top prospect overall in the ESPN 300 recruiting rankings. He signed with Alabama knowing full well that he would be scrutinized, and he knows it even more now that the 2024 squad will be the first to play in the post-Saban era.
“Everyone will be observing. We all understand that we’ll be on the starting lineup following Coach Saban, but Booker said, “that’s a chance to only cement our legacy, to go out and win a championship under Coach DeBoer.” “Yes, we have lost a few guys—some really good players—but our young core is still strong. You’ve also witnessed Coach DeBoer’s success with his teams in other locations. He knows the kind of players needed to win championships and gets the best performance out of his players.”
The fact that DeBoer wasn’t scared to take on a challenge as daunting as following a legend like Nick Saban, in spite of building a Pac-12 championship team at Washington and the Huskies heading to the Big Ten next season, struck a chord with the Alabama players above all else.
“He has a strong interest in it. He is here to win titles, and we still have great players on our team to accomplish that,” Lawson stated. “I have no doubt that as time goes on, he will attract even more elite players, as they will want to play for him.”
Not everyone was cut out to be a Saban follower, Booker joked. Under Nick Saban, Alabama not only won six national titles, but the Crimson Tide also triumphed in 15 of the previous 16 seasons with 11 or more wins. They have defeated No. 1 Georgia in two of the last three SEC titles, and they have participated in the College Football Playoffs for all but two of their seasons.
Booker remarked, “With our fans, and I love our fans, but they’re really tough.” It takes guts to follow the greatest coach in history, and that was going to be the case for whoever they brought in. Coach DeBoer, though, is geared for it. I can’t wait to accompany him outside and see what we can accomplish. This year, after our games in Texas and South Florida, many wrote us off, yet we managed to make it all the way to the playoffs. Because we lost Coach Saban and a few guys to the portal, people will start to write us off once more.
“Let’s go out there and prove ’em wrong again; we know what they think of us.”
“The night we met, I told Coach DeBoer that it takes a man to come in here behind Coach Saban and take this job on,” Moore continued. The vision he has for this program is then spoken about while you sit there, and it says a lot about him as a person.”