May 25, 2024

After transfer additions and subtractions, is Alabama’s roster playoff caliber? Kalen DeBoer thinks so

The Mal Moore Athletic Facility is still partially a construction zone.

Alabama coach Kalen DeBoer’s office these days is a room typically reserved for press conferences. So when he says to take a seat on Thursday afternoon, there are about 30 to choose from. He jokes that maybe he should stand at the lectern and answer questions from a reporter.

But he’s not complaining about the unusual accommodations. He flips open his phone to show some renderings of his new office, which is nearing completion.

It’s sharp — modern with more technology, more branding, more space. DeBoer says it’s designed in a way to improve efficiency and recruits’ visits. 

For now, the pictures are staying on his phone, though. The big reveal will come later.

Nick Saban’s wood paneling will be a thing of the past. But one popular feature of the GOAT’s office will remain: the button on his desk that automatically opened and closed the main door.

Recruits and players always marveled at that bit of trickery. Joey Bosa once said it scared him.

DeBoer says he specifically requested it.

“That’s actually handy,” he says during an exclusive interview with 247Sports, “because the desk is on the other side of the room.”

Again, efficiency. 

It’s been 125 days since DeBoer arrived in Tuscaloosa, flying in from his former job at the University of Washington where he led the Huskies to the national championship game in only his second year leading the program.

The weeks and months have passed by in a blur, limiting attrition via the transfer portal in the wake of Saban’s retirement, finishing off the 2024 signing class and then conducting spring practice. Three days after A-Day, the portal reopened.

DeBoer said from the outset that they needed to add depth to the offensive line and secondary.

Mission accomplished.

Alabama lost only a handful of players in the spring but no starters, and added three DBs with experience in DaShawn Jones from Wake Forest, King Mack from Penn State, and Kam Howard from Charlotte. It also added Michigan State interior offensive lineman Geno VanDeMark and Iowa left tackle Kadyn Proctor, who was an All-American at Alabama last season and left in the wake of Saban’s retirement.

Miami (Ohio) kicker Graham Nicholson also committed in April.  If you’re going to replace the NCAA all-time scoring leader, getting the guy who beat him out for last season’s Lou Groza Award is a good place to start.

Asked whether he feels he has a playoff-caliber roster now, DeBoer says, “The potential is there.”

“We need to have a great summer, a great fall,” he adds. “But that’s what I would have said a year ago, too. Because there’s there’s the talent piece and then there’s the execution piece and then there’s the real tight chemistry that I think just takes time to develop going through the winter, summer, fall, to really get a team that can be at that level.”

But did the transfer additions tip the scales?

To that point, DeBoer leaves no doubt.

“I do,” he says. “Because you need to have more than just a first group that you can put out there. You’re gonna have to add a second group to even just get you through every game. You know, you need bodies to go out there and rotate in.

“But I think we’re we’re in a solid spot all around as you go through the season knowing that there’s probably going to be some guys that get dinged up here and there that we got a next man up that can go out there and get it done.”

Competing in the SEC, quality depth can be the difference between a playoff push and fading late in the season. And in the case of VanDeMark, Mack and Howard, there’s the hope that if they don’t find a way to start this year, they’ll develop and push for first-team reps in the future.

So a win-win.

Proctor should slot right back in as the starting left tackle. Jones figures to compete for a starting job, too.

After playing catch-up for months, DeBoer says he feels like they’re “in a really good spot” as a program. That goes for high school recruiting as well where Alabama’s 2025 Class ranks eighth nationally, according to 247Sports.

“We have a great group of guys that are either committed or we’re in the hunt for and have set up for official visits in June,” DeBoer says. “So I’m excited about who these guys are. They’re obviously great players, but they fit Alabama and what our vision is.”

Whether it’s an overhauled roster or a new office, DeBoer is putting his imprint on the program.

The question isn’t where they put the trophy case, it’s how long it will take for him to add to it.