The transfer portal is all the rage these days, and former LSU defensive back Eli Ricks' portal experience has taken him within the same neighborhood. Ricks announced Wednesday night at the end of the first day of the early signing period that he will stay within the SEC West and play for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
"Done deal, let's work! #RollTide," he wrote.
Ricks had 11 tackles and one interception in six games this season, which ended after the loss to Kentucky in Week 6 when he opted to have surgery for a nagging shoulder injury. It was a disappointing follow-up to one of the best freshman campaigns in recent history. Ricks had four interceptions -- two of which went for touchdowns -- and nine pass breakups as a freshman in 2020, earning Third-Team All-American honors from the Associated Press. He was also named to the SEC's 2020 All-Freshman Team as voted on by the conference's coaches.
A five-star prospect and the No. 14 overall player in the 2020 Class out of IMG Academy via Rancho Cucamonga, California, Ricks entered the transfer portal on Nov. 23. He was the second-ranked transfer portal player this offseason according to 247Sports.
Ricks was a star at LSU, and he should be a starter from Day 1 at Alabama next year. In fact, he probably could have started this year due to the injuries Saban's crew has suffered at the back end of the defense. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is agile enough to handle the best receivers in the country and the build to step up into the box if needed. That versatility will come in handy in a Crimson Tide defense that puts a big emphasis on versatility in the secondary.
Alabama only signed two pure cornerbacks during the early signing period, which means that he should immediately vault to the top of the depth chart. Saban already had a ton of success with immediate impact transfers like wide receiver Jameson Williams and linebacker Henry To'o To'o, and Ricks should be the next in line.
Power of Alabama
Just how attractive is Alabama to players across the nation? Stars are gravitating to Saban's program even without visiting the campus.
"I never visited Bama out of high school but my senior year when I was at IMG, I talked to coach Saban almost every day," Ricks told 247Sports' Greg Biggins last month. "I was already locked in with LSU at the time but he's a great coach for sure. My family knows Bryce [Young] and his family really well and my parents have been talking with Craig [father] a lot about what it's like there."
Both schools have produced their fair share of NFL draft picks in the secondary, but it's clear that the momentum generated by the Alabama's sustained success, combined with the turmoil and coaching turnover at LSU, have widened the gap between the two schools.
Full rebuild at LSU
Brian Kelly took over at LSU on Nov. 30, which didn't leave him a lot of time to hire a staff, meet with current players and recruit potential new Tigers. That's OK, though. Kelly is in full rebuild mode in Baton Rouge, which is needed after the fracture we saw within the program during Ed Orgeron's last two seasons.
Kelly has the chance to put an immediate stamp on the program due to this recruiting class and, more importantly, the transfer portal. If players want out and are attracted to the behemoth within the division, that's fine. That mindset is not what Kelly wants from his players. Ricks' departure opens up a spot for a player who wants to be there and be a part of Kelly's vision of the future of the program.
Make no mistake -- it'll be tough to replace Ricks. But his injury gave the Tigers plenty of experience doing just that during the last half of the season. That will help them transition to the Kelly era.