Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (2024)

Table of Contents
Offense Defense

Last week, The Athletic’s Alabama football film study took a deep dive into the program’s eight summer enrollees from the high school ranks. Now, the focus turns to Alabama’s spring transfer portal additions.

Before we dive in, here’s a snapshot of how Alabama fared in the transfer portal window overall. The Tide lost 39 players to the transfer portal during this cycle, the most in the SEC, and welcomed in 14 total players. Despite the discrepancy, the team actually made gains in terms of its cumulative on-field experience. Alabama’s portal departures played a total of 4,351 snaps during the 2023 season. Its portal arrivals played a total of 4,986 at their previous schools.

Advertisem*nt

Some position groups’ depth was hit harder than others, and some of the personnel losses can’t be quantified by 2023 snaps, particularly the 2024 early enrollees who left after Nick Saban announced his retirement. But overall, Alabama backfilled its roster with experienced players who fit short- and long-term needs, on top of 28 high school enrollees. Here are the six players Alabama added via the spring portal window:

  • OL Kadyn Proctor (2023 school: Alabama)
  • OL Geno VanDeMark (Michigan State
  • DB Kameron Howard (Charlotte)
  • DB King Mack (Penn State)
  • DB DaShawn Jones (Wake Forest)
  • Kicker Graham Nicholson (Miami-Ohio)

Nicholson won’t be a part of this film study, but his importance can’t be overstated. The reigning Lou Groza winner compares favorably to Will Reichard, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings this spring. Nicholson has made 84.7 percent of his field goal attempts in his three-year career; Reichard finished college at 84.0 percent. Nicholson also could represent significant improvement when it comes to kickoffs. Last season, 59.7 percent of Reichard’s kickoffs ended in touchbacks, compared to 71.2 percent for Nicholson.

Offense

Proctor, who rejoins the team after transferring to Iowa in January, was Alabama’s highest-rated portal addition. He struggled for long stretches last season, but he has undeniable elite traits and was on the rise toward the end of the season. Proctor’s overall grade on Pro Football Focus rose from 56.2 through the first seven games to 69.2 grade over the final seven games.

Proctor’s errors last season were a healthy mix of mental and physical mistakes. The mental mistakes should be less common in his second year as a Power 5 starter, and some of his physical mistakes improved as the season progressed.

For example, Proctor struggled with low hand placement and body lean early on. In this clip, Arkansas linebacker Landon Jackson (who had 3.5 sacks against the Crimson Tide), takes advantage of Proctor’s lean and low hands to swipe past him for an easy sack.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (1)

Fast forward to the SEC championship game: Proctor sets the edge wider, stays upright and has his hands up. Georgia’s Jalon Walker can’t use his speed to get around Proctor and is held up, allowing Jalen Milroe to convert a pivotal fourth down.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (2)

Additionally, there were moments when Proctor got his hands on a defender but didn’t knock him off course enough to prevent disruption. In this play from the Tennessee game, Proctor was matched up with projected first-round 2025 NFL Draft pick James Pearce. Proctor’s hands are on him, but Pearce is still able to get good positioning and reach over for the sack (it’s worth noting that Milroe could’ve stepped up in the pocket).

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (3)

On another snap in December against Georgia, Proctor did allow a little push but dug his feet in and didn’t allow further pressure. Milroe hardly had to move and delivered another strike for a first down.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (4)

Another factor that should help Proctor is Alabama’s apparent effort to play lighter along the offensive line than it did last season, to fit a new system that requires more pulling and blocking in space. Guard Tyler Booker revealed this week that he’s down to 330 pounds from the 352 he was listed at last fall. Proctor, who played at 360 last season, should be cutting some weight this summer. The majority of Proctor’s struggles as a freshman came against pass rushers; dropping some weight should help with mobility while allowing him to build on a mostly adequate season as a run blocker. Plays like this against LSU, where he essentially takes out three defenders, bode well for the run game this fall.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (5)

The other offensive line addition, Geno VanDeMark, left a starting position at Michigan State to join Alabama. VanDeMark started Michigan State’s spring game at right guard, after starting six games there last season. This play from him to get to the second level and block the linebacker out of the play led to one of the spring game’s biggest highlights.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (6)

It’s somewhat difficult to gauge VanDeMark’s performance because of his injury-riddled 2023. He started in the first three games (Central Michigan, Richmond, Washington) before missing five of the last nine games; when he was able to play, he was limited to about 35 snaps per game. His strengths are experience and an ability to move defenders out of plays when he’s confident in his assignment. However, he struggles with consistency in identifying his man and getting hands on him effectively, which can lead to blown assignments and negative plays. VanDeMark does have some positional versatility, logging snaps at center and guard last season (284 snaps total).

Here’s another good example of what he can bring when the traits line up. VanDeMark wins his one-on-one and moves the lineman out of the quarterback’s passing lane for an easy completion.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (7)

VanDeMark (6-5, 325) has a similar size profile to guard Darrian Dalcourt (6-3, 320), who is now out of eligibility. He doesn’t have the ceiling of some of Alabama’s young linemen, but he fills a necessary experience gap and like Dalcourt can play guard and center in the event of an injury.

Defense

Alabama went hard after secondary help this spring with the additions of Jones, Howard and Mack. Here’s how each fared in terms of snaps by position in 2023, according to TruMedia.

Advertisem*nt

Dashawn Jones: 575 total snaps — 516 at outside cornerback, 39 in the box, 19 in the slot, one at free safety.

Kameron Howard: 347 total snaps — 167 at free safety, 129 in the box, 42 in the slot, eight on the line of scrimmage, one at outside cornerback.

King Mack: 70 total snaps — 49 at free safety, 12 in the box, six in the slot, two on the line of scrimmage, one at outside cornerback.

Jones fills a big need at outside cornerback and will likely play opposite Domani Jackson. Alabama’s new defense now employs a field and boundary corner: the boundary corner takes the short side of the field from the hash mark to the sidelines while the field corner covers the wide side from the hash mark where the ball is spotted. The wide side favors Jackson, an explosive and rangy athlete, which puts Jones in the boundary. In that role, Jones will be tasked with more one-on-one situations in pass coverage and a shorter area to defend against the run. But he’s shown ability at both.

In this play, Jones is one-on-one with Georgia Tech leading receiver Eric Singleton, who averaged 15 yards per catch last season. Jones never allows Singleton to get behind him and shows good patience and ball tracking to secure an interception.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (8)

A common thread connecting past Alabama corners at the boundary position is sure tackling. This two-play sequence against Virginia Tech displays Jones’ tackling ability. In the first clip, on a third-and-9, Jones is matched up against the much bigger Da’Quan Felton (6-5, 207) but wraps him up and slings him down short of the line to gain, forcing a fourth down.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (9)

Several plays later, Jones comes downhill to make a tackle for loss on the ball carrier.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (10)

In Howard and Mack, Alabama get a few developmental pieces who could help in the short-term as well. Both players could factor in at all three safety positions — free, rover (strong safety) and husky (slot) — and bring strong skill sets to the table.

Howard is more of a ball hawk who is good about reading the quarterback’s eyes to track and make plays on the ball, skills that will serve him well in defensive coordinator Kane Wommack’s defense, which will play more zone than Alabama has in years past. Here, Howard read Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s eyes all the way and made a good play on the ball for an interception.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (11)

Mack is an explosive athlete, Florida’s 3A state champion in the 400-meter dash (46.25) in spring 2022 as well as an all-state honoree in the 100-meter dash (10.64) and 200-meter dash (21.43).

That explosiveness is on display in the play below, where Mack was able to put pressure on the quarterback to disrupt the throw.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (12)

Howard (5-11, 189 pounds) and Mack (5-10, 188 pounds) can both be considered undersized, but both are more than willing tacklers. In the play below, Howard came downhill on running back Marcus Carroll, who is now at Missouri, and stopped him in his tracks despite Carroll building up steam through the hole.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (13)

Mack lined up in multiple spots during Penn State’s spring game, from both safety spots to inside the box. On the play below, he was matched up with tight end Joey Schlaffer (6-5, 233). Mack not only avoided the oncoming traffic by the receivers but limited the yards after catch by making an abrupt tackle.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (14)

Both players should be welcome depth additions to a secondary that has been completely rebuilt this offseason. There’s going to be an adjustment period learning a new defense with only a year of college football under their belts, but both are assets, most immediately on special teams in particular. Sure tacklers that play with this type of effort will find snaps in some way.

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (15)

(Photo of DaShawn Jones: Grant Halverson / Getty Images))

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (16)Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (17)

Kennington Lloyd Smith III is a Staff Writer for The Athletic covering Alabama football. Kennington most recently covered University of Iowa football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. He is a three-time state press association award winner in feature writing, enterprise writing and podcasting. Kennington attended The University of Georgia and originates from Atlanta, GA. Follow Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_

Alabama football film study: Sizing up the spring portal additions (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Last Updated:

Views: 6423

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Birthday: 1998-01-29

Address: Apt. 611 3357 Yong Plain, West Audra, IL 70053

Phone: +5819954278378

Job: Construction Director

Hobby: Embroidery, Creative writing, Shopping, Driving, Stand-up comedy, Coffee roasting, Scrapbooking

Introduction: My name is Dr. Pierre Goyette, I am a enchanting, powerful, jolly, rich, graceful, colorful, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.