Ben Davis, Ale Kaho entering transfer portal no reason for Alabama football fans to panic | Hurt

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

In the not-too-distant past, transfers from a football program were viewed as a warning sign. There wasn’t an easy-access NCAA transfer portal. NCAA rules didn’t make transfers easy, and conference rules often made moving within a league almost impossible.

As a result, a program that had players, especially multiple players, leaving with remaining eligibility was viewed as unstable, as worrisome as the frying pan with the burning scrambled eggs that set off the kitchen smoke alarm: It didn’t automatically mean that the house was going to burn to the ground, but it was something to keep an eye on. 

Today, while it can still be an ominous sign (especially when the numbers are high), transfers are seen as a fairly usual thing. Panic doesn’t set in, even when the players are at the same position, like Alabama inside linebackers Ben Davis and Ale Kaho. Both were highly rated by recruiting services, which used to be another red flag. Fans, in particular, like to see players that they bragged on during recruiting go on to become NFL first-round draft choices, but that isn’t the only measure of success: graduation, prowess on special teams, a positive locker-room presence – all of those things matter.

Alabama linebacker Ben Davis (1) takes the field before Alabama's 59-31 victory over Ole Miss Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

That’s not to say that Nick Saban likes every aspect of the portal even when it has brought in players like Landon Dickerson and Carl Tucker, and might bring more talent to Tuscaloosa sooner rather than later. But as the portal is now part of the landscape, some of the nefarious connotations that used to go along with it are going away as well.

What once raised cries among Alabama’s opposition that Saban was “cutting players” is now easier to see as Saban being honest. He knows, after two or three years, where a player fits into the team’s plans, and lying to a player (or at least using more roses in the palette than the picture requires) might deny a player a chance at a starting job or more playing time somewhere else.

On the flip side, a player who makes a career decision based on that information isn’t quitting. He’s doing what real-world men and women do every day: weighing options, making decisions about the future and doing so with more freedom than was available even four years ago. That’s true of Davis and Kaho and of Joshua McMillon, who probably made the right choice as well even though he could have become the Riley Norris of Alabama football.

9/26/20 MFB Alabama vs Missouri
Alabama linebacker Jaylen Moody (42)
Photo by Kent Gidley

On the field, Alabama will be fine. With Jaylen Moody and especially a fast-rising Christian Harris, the core is strong. There’s depth behind them in the sophomore class. Kendrick Blackshire is the most notable inside linebacker in the process, although he committed so early in the process that he didn’t get as much attention as he would have otherwise.

There is nothing wrong with fans wanting every signee to become a superstar, especially at Alabama, where that happens fairly frequently. But as the transfer process is demystified, the fair thing is that not every player will meet that standard and that doesn’t automatically make them a bust.

Reach Cecil Hurt at or via Twitter @cecilhurt