Boy, it must feel good for Nick Saban to see so many highly-touted players that he personally recruited leave the program to find success at other schools.
"Good" in the sense that his team is damn near self-sustaining at this point. Four national championships, four conference titles and five straight number one recruiting classes will give your program a sort of autopilot feel to it.
SB Nation's The Opening Coverage
SB Nation's The Opening Coverage
Not to say that college football's reigning emperor is taking all of this for granted, but suffice it to say an overabundance of talent is a problem that every other coach in the sport would like to have.
To give you an example of this "problem", Shawn Burgess-Becker, who was rated by Rivals as the 187th best player in the country and 11th at his position in 2015 (that's LAST YEAR), surprised fans and probably his coaching staff by deciding to transfer to Central Florida early last month.
Burgess-Becker was a stalwart as a true freshman on special teams. As a defender at 'Bama, this usually means that Saban is pretty close to getting you a starting spot on the defense. What with Tony Brown facing a possible suspension and the impending departure of senior corner, Maurice Smith, Burgess-Becker might've seen time in dime packages in 2016. Based on talent alone, he could've been in line to replace Eddie Jackson by his junior season in 2017.
We, of course, don't know what went into Burgess-Becker's decision to leave. He's from South Florida, so he may have just wanted to be closer to home. This is just to illustrate how former three, four and even five star recruits can get a little antsy when their number isn't called immediately due to asinine levels of depth at almost every position.
What about Chris Black? Black was another major get out of Florida. In 2012, he was higher ranked in some recruiting circles than eventual 'Bama legend Amari Cooper. Black was seen as a speedy slot option for a team that was already deep with receivers. He even showed some flashes of this in his first spring game.
The injury bug plagued Black his first two years on campus, though, and he couldn't crack the two deep after that. He'll be hoping to bring Missouri the type of weapon in 2016 that he wanted to bring Alabama in 2012.
Smith is the most intriguing because he was going to be a pivotal part of the secondary for Alabama this season. Most likely, he would wind up as the nickel or dime defensive back, which, against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, is certainly needed. He was even on the first team the last two years during the spring game.
Unfortunately, he was usurped last year by precocious true freshmen Minkah Fitzpatrick at the nickel spot and Ronnie Harrison at the dime. With Fitzpatrick and Harrison moving over to primary positions in the secondary, Smith's experience in Saban's system was going to nab him one of the spots.
Former three-star Texas high school quarterback Alec Morris was a shoe-in for a starting spot by his second or third year at Wake Forest before Alabama flipped him as simply a tool to create competition with the higher-ranked QBs in front of him.
Freshman linebacker Adonis Thomas became the most recent depth chart casualty this week when he announced that he was transferring. The depth across that position from inside out is especially startling, with five-star incoming freshmen Ben Davis, Lyndell Wilson and Terrell Hall vying for spots. (*Note: Wilson needs his second surgery since signing his LOI so he may be redshirting in 2016)
That has to be the most terrifying part for any player waiting his turn to start: the blue-chip freshmen coming up behind him. Truly, what went through David Cornwell's mind when Blake Barnett committed a year after Cornwell set foot on campus?
Of course, the competition brings out the best in the entire team, but these are still 19-year-old kids. What precludes them from feeling jealous when the young gun rides in town? I'm 32 and I pout incessantly for a helluva lot less.
These most recent transfers should, of course, not be blamed for leaving. They're trying to hold on to any shot at a professional career and for Morris, Smith and Black it's their last shot at the collegiate level. Burgess-Becker will no doubt wind up in the main rotation when he gains eligibility at UCF. Thomas reportedly will be transferring to Northwest Mississippi Community College and most likely will be picked up by another SEC school the following year.
This is where Alabama is. This is how Nick Saban has won four out of the last seven national titles. Well-regarded players leave because other well-regarded players caught on a little quicker. Just a little. That's it. This is the difference between being a three-year starter and an eventual transfer.
If this isn't dynastic rule despite the "lean" years, I don't know what is.