What production, experience has Alabama football actually gained and lost in transfer portal?

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

From a quick glance at transfer portal numbers, Alabama football looks like it experienced a mass exodus with significant loss. 

The Crimson Tide has had 26 players enter the transfer portal in the past calendar year, including walk-ons. Meanwhile, Alabama has added only five players. 

Don't let the differential fool you, though. What coach Nick Saban has done in the transfer portal epitomizes quality over quantity. 

The Crimson Tide supplemented positions of need at cornerback, running back, offensive line and receiver. In the case of pass catchers, Alabama turned a potential area of weakness into one that could become a strength. Especially if it somehow adds Pittsburgh's Jordan Addison, the Biletnikoff Award winner who was reportedly working out with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young in California. 

Once again, the NFL Draft continues to take more top-shelf talent from Alabama than the transfer portal. 

May 1 was the deadline for players to enter the portal. Those already in the portal after the deadline could still be in play, but the roster is close to being finalized.

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Net positive in starting experience

Of the 26 departures, they combined for only six starts on offense or defense in 2021.

Tight end Jahleel Billingsley and edge defender Drew Sanders are two of the most prominent players. Sanders led the way in starts with three in 2021. Billingsley had one. 

Tommy Brown and Marcus Banks were the only two others who started a game. 

Meanwhile, Alabama has added a combined 39 starts in 2021. That number could have been higher if not for Eli Ricks dealing with an injury for a portion of the season at LSU. He had six starts. Overall, new offensive lineman Tyler Steen led the group with 12 for Vanderbilt. 

"(Steen) definitely going to help our depth," Young said during spring practice. "I’m excited for him to come in. So, I trust us and I trust everything." 

Almost twice as much playing time added

Alabama lost 1,227 offensive and defensive snaps from 2021 to the portal but gained 2,363 via transfers, according to Pro Football Focus' charting. 

Most of the 26 who entered the portal didn't even receive 100 snaps on offense or defense. Only Billingsley and Sanders crossed that threshold. 

It's a stark contrast to the five incoming players – not one saw fewer than 350 snaps with their respective teams. 

Steen also leads the group in this category with 836 snaps. 

Net receiving gain, but will need production to increase

Alabama no doubt saw a jump in receiver production from what it lost in the portal, but it has more ground to make up from what was lost to the NFL Draft. 

Portal departures put together 28 catches for 429 yards and four touchdowns. Compare that to 80 receptions for 1,490 yards and 13 touchdowns for portal additions. The two aren't close. 

But those combined portal additions are behind Jameson Williams' sole production in yards and touchdowns in 2021. He caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. Plus, Alabama lost John Metchie III, who led the team with 96 receptions, to the draft. 

Williams set the bar high, but he also proved a jump can be made in the right circumstance. Williams went from next-to-no production at Ohio State to an All-American season at Alabama. 

That might be a lot to ask of Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton or Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell to pull off alone, but combined they could make up for that lack of production. Especially when they have a Heisman Trophy winner throwing to them. 

Neither Burton nor Harrell saw near as much time in the offense as Williams did in 2021, though. Burton received 388 snaps and eight starts. Harrell was right behind him with 373 snaps but had only two starts. 

Meanwhile, Williams received 832 snaps and was a starter in every game he played. 

Just a year ago, though, Williams was fresh off a 308-snap season, which is in the neighborhood of Burton and Harrell. Then he lit up college football and became a first-round pick. 

Burton and Harrell probably wouldn't mind a similar jump in a pass-friendly offense. 

"Jermaine Burton has probably been the most consistent guy at the position," Saban said after the spring game. "So it’s obviously a place where we need to get more consistent, there’s no question about it, in my opinion. If we’re gonna be able to take advantage of the other strengths that we have on our team."

Nick Kelly covers Alabama football and men's basketball for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at nkelly@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly