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Nick Saban continues to reap the benefits of the NCAA Transfer Portal

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On Wednesday, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien compared the NCAA transfer portal to NFL free agency without all the rules. And remember, before the transfer portal was implemented, Nick Saban warned that the best players would seek out the best schools as their final choice or destination for college football Saturdays. This coming Monday against Georgia in the national title game, Alabama will start a player on defense in Henry To’oTo’o and a player from the offense in Jameson Williams, both transferred to Alabama before the start of the 2021 season.

Rewind back to the 2019 season when then To’oTo’o was a highly rated four-star out of California and chose Tennessee over Alabama. The Volunteers would go 8-5 in 2019 and 3-7 in 2020 before To’oTo’o hit the portal.

“It's honestly a blessing to be able to be part of something so special, to be able to be part of a team and a group of guys that we strive for greatness every day. So it's been a huge blessing,” said To’oTo’o when asked about transferring from a sub .500 team to a national title contender. This season To’oTo’o has played in 863 snaps, which is second on the team and has recorded 70 tackles.

O’Brien didn’t want to go into too much detail regarding the transfer portal but did say that Jameson Williams was able to come right in after spring practice and pick up the offense quickly. “We were able to bring Jameson into our program, he was a guy that came in right away and wasn't in spring practice and started with us in the summer and just really did a great job learning our offense and hit the ground running.”

Before Williams transferred to Alabama, he didn’t see the field much at Ohio State. In 2019 he played in just 153 snaps, then in 2020 he played in 308, but this season he’s totaled 810 snaps even playing on special teams for the Crimson Tide. Going into the national title game, Williams who is Alabama’s premier weapon on the outside has recorded 75 receptions for 1,507-yards this season with 15 touchdowns and was a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award.

“The experience, everything went well. I just felt like it was time for me to make a decision for myself. And things just -- I entered the portal, and just ended up being at Alabama. And things went well,” said Williams who is now projected as a first-round pick in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.

The next wave of transfers to Alabama

The rich will get richer for the 2022 season as Jahmyr Gibbs and Elias Ricks each announced transfers to Alabama in December of 2021. Gibbs who was considered one of the most dynamic running backs in college football last season at Georgia Tech rushed for 746-yards and four touchdowns and was named to the All-ACC team. Gibbs also recorded 35 receptions for 465-yards and should absolutely compete for the starting job in the backfield for Alabama this next season.

As for Elias Ricks, the former five-star corner who has played at LSU in each of the last two seasons will bring even more elite talent to the Alabama secondary next season. Ricks was named to the SEC 2020 All-Freshmen team after recording four interceptions, two of which he returned to the house for the LSU Tigers. This past season, he recorded 11 tackles and one interception in a shortened season due to him having surgery on his shoulder.

Gibbs and Ricks have already arrived in Tuscaloosa.

Meet the rest of the early enrollees here

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Practice footage from Wednesday