TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With football players having a limited amount of time to play the sport, no one can blame them for wanting to pursue other options in order to get opportunities on the field.
This offseason, Alabama has had four players transfer — Shawn Burgess-Becker, Adonis Thomas, Christian Bell and Daylon Charlot — with Maurice Smith’s transfer status in limbo.
Smith is a senior who is scheduled to graduate Saturday, and his situation has gotten messy with both sides unwilling to yield.
As for the others, all four were originally a part of Alabama’s 2015 recruiting class.
“What I try to emphasize with our players is, there’s so much emphasis now on outcomes – immediate self-gratification,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Football is a developmental game – you’ve heard me talk about this many times before – where people develop and improve. What I always try to sell our players on, some of them play when they’re freshmen, some of them play really well, some of them aren’t ready to play, some of them play a role.
“We had four guys that were starters in some role last year and probably 10 or 11 guys that lettered last year playing on special teams – which is about half the guys that we recruited. And some guys need the time to develop and learn and grow, whether it’s physically, emotionally, mentally, learning the system.”
Calvin Ridley, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Da’Ron Payne and Ronnie Harrison all played significant roles on last year’s national championship team as true freshmen. While others saw time on special teams, some ended up taking redshirts which is the case with every recruiting class at Alabama no matter how highly ranked.
“I think sometimes there’s unrealistic expectations placed on guys, based on their reputation that they create in high school and sometimes the people around them want that same immediate self-gratification, which puts a lot of pressure on guys, which creates a lot of anxiety,” Saban said. ” But what we try to emphasize with our players here is ‘Focus on development. Trust and believe in doing the things that we’re going to try to do to help you be the best player you can be,’ and that’s all anybody can expect from anybody.
“Everybody ought to get a lot of positive self-gratification from that, right? But when you worry about outcomes, and ‘I want to play in the NFL some day,’ and ‘I didn’t start as a freshman, so maybe I won’t do that,’ and we have people outside telling us those kinds of things, it makes it really, really difficult for these guys. It’s really unfair in a lot of ways to them because they don’t have a chance to develop and become the kind of players in sort of a normal fashion because of the external factors that seem to be placed on them in a lot of cases.”
Bell landed at Wisconsin, Thomas elected to go to a junior college, Burgess-Becker picked UCF while Charlot decided to transfer to Kansas.
Charlot’s transfer may have been the biggest head scratcher on the surface. Charlot, a former four-star receiver, is a talented player who could have contributed at Alabama. Problem is, Alabama is currently loaded at wide receiver. Ridley, Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart, Cam Sims and Gehrig Dieter would all be ahead of Charlot on the depth chart.
“Daylon made really good progress here,” Saban said. “I just wish he would have had a little more patience to hang in there and I think he would have been a great contributor here and I think he’ll have a good career wherever he chooses to go.”
Rashaan Evans was a 5-star linebacker and one of the top prospects in the country coming out of Auburn high school in 2014. He played a limited role in his first two years, but is likely to be more of a contributor heading into his junior season.
“When you come in, you really kinda got to be able to just adjust to the fact that you might not be playing right off the bat,” Evans said. “But every guy who was before me did the same thing, so you have to have that kind of mentality. Just get better and once the opportunity presents itself, you have to be ready.”
Dalvin Tomlinson, one of the leaders of this year’s defense, said he tries to pick up young teammates who may be down about not playing much.
“Mentally I feel like it’s a good and a bad thing because if you let it affect you too much you might get demotivated to work hard and stuff like that,” Tomlinson said. “But on the positive side it will be like you got this time to better yourself on the field so you’ll be able to critique yourself how other people critique you like coaches and stuff as such and just get better as a football player.”