5 Alabama football breakout candidates emerging after spring practice

Expect for any of these Alabama football players to have breakout seasons for the Crimson Tide.
Justice Haynes, Alabama Crimson Tide
Justice Haynes, Alabama Crimson Tide / Brandon Sumrall/GettyImages

It is a different era in Tuscaloosa, I can tell you that! For the first time since 2007, Alabama will have a new head coach. While Kalen DeBoer is well-respected in the industry and has won everywhere he has been, he is not Nick Saban, well, because no one is ... Regardless, I fully expect the Crimson Tide to be a playoff-caliber team, albeit in an expanded field, during DeBoer's first year on the job.

While Alabama did lose key players one defense like Terrion Arnold, Kool-Aid McKinstry and Dallas Turner to the 2024 NFL Draft, the Crimson Tide still have a Heisman Trophy hopeful under center in Jalen Milroe, as well as a plethora of players wanting to prove themselves. Right now, I have Alabama as the fifth or sixth-best team in the expanded SEC, but it would not shock me if they got to Atlanta.

What I am going to do today is rattle off five players on the Alabama roster I believe are poised for breakout seasons. Some are more obvious than others, but there are so many areas of this team where many players can make meaningful contributions. It may be more of a group effort this year, but I fully expect Alabama to be a tough out anyways, even if it is a down year for the program.

Here are my five best bets to be breakout stars in Tuscaloosa now that spring practice is in the books.

5. Alabama Crimson Tide DL LT Overton

I have followed along with LT Overton's football career over the last few years for a great reason. He's from my neck of the woods. I have friends from college who went to his high school in Milton. While I wanted him to come play for my beloved Georgia Bulldogs, I get why he wanted to go to Texas A&M initially, as well as transfer to Alabama. Getting out-of-state because of who his father is feels smart.

While Milton Overton gets ready for his Kennesaw State Owls to make the big leap up to FBS by joining Conference USA, look for LT Overton to make a huge impact in the trenches for Alabama. Yes, Nick Saban no longer coaches there, but Kalen DeBoer has brought in a ton of great defensive coaches who will get the most out of him. Maurice Linguist and Kane Wommack will love the guy.

It would not shock me if Overton did more than merely crack the defensive line rotation this season.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide FS Dre Kirkpatrick Jr.

If you think LT Overton is under a ton of pressure, you will never guess who Dre Kirkpatrick Jr.'s father is... Okay, maybe you will? Regardless, Kirkpatrick opted to go play for his namesake father's alma mater. Dre Kirkpatrick Sr. was one of the finest defensive backs to ever play for Nick Saban at Alabama. He had a nice career in the NFL as well, but there is a chance his son could be even better.

Kirkpatrick is only a freshman, but he is in the perfect situation to succeed. He will initially start the season as a backup at free safety, but I think his talent will be too much to keep him off the field for too long. This is why he decided to enroll early. With so many opportunities to be had under a new coaching staff, look for Kirkpatrick to take advantage of the situation like his namesake father did.

We should be very excited about seeing another Kirkpatrick potentially star at Alabama for four years.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide WR Germie Bernard

Keep an eye on this player big time next year. Although Alabama has to replace Jermaine Burton and Isaiah Bond most notably in the receiving corps, why not lean on a guy who knows the offensive system like the back of his hand? Yes, I am talking about Washington transfer Germie Bernard, a guy who played for Kalen DeBoer last year in Seattle. He knows the offense that Nick Sheridan will run.

Factor in his former wide receiver coach JaMarcus Shepard at Washington being a key part of DeBoer's first staff at Alabama, and there you go. This is the position group to be a great potential breakout star at Alabama. There are positions to fill, and we have seen what former Huskies stars have done outside the numbers in Rome Odunze, Ja'Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan in this offense.

Bernard may not be the most talented guy in the Alabama receiving room, but he does have a leg up.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide CB Domani Jackson

This was such a tremendous pickup for Alabama in the transfer portal. Although he never played for Nick Saban, the former Crimson Tide head coach recruited Domani Jackson back in high school. He went to the same Californian powerhouse that produced 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young in Mater Dei. With so many opportunities to compete ahead of him, this is a huge spot for Jackson.

Having to replace the likes of Arnold and McKinstry will not be easy, but Jackson may have the savvy and the experience to do so. Like wide receiver Germie Bernard transferring over from Washington, Jackson may not be the most talented guy in his position group, but he too in a way has a leg up on the competition to earn a starting job. Jackson should be rewarded by transferring away from USC.

Alabama was defined by great defensive backs under Saban, so maybe it continues under DeBoer?

1. Alabama Crimson Tide RB Justice Haynes

By far and away, my favorite potential breakout candidate on the Alabama roster is running back Justice Haynes. Even though he is a Georgia legacy by way of his Hobnail Boot father Verron, Haynes has all the talent you could ever hope for to see out of an Alabama running back. If Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram II are the ceiling, we can only hope for Haynes to one day become Najee Harris for them.

While Kalen DeBoer's offense is more passing-centric than ground-heavy, he is going to find out real fast that you cannot hope to close out games in the SEC without dictating terms in the trenches on both sides of the ball. It would not shock me if Haynes ends up being one of the very best running backs in the SEC by the end of the season. 2024 will be the year that he puts the league on notice.

If Haynes can play up to his potential during his sophomore season, Alabama won't be down for long.

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