Nick Saban, Alabama look at transfer portal 'a lot like free agency'

Recruiting in the new age of college football is drastically different from what it was a decade ago. 

With the implementation of the transfer portal, teams are able to go out and fill their needs with upperclassmen who are ready to make an immediate impact. 

Alabama Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban watches the action on the field before the College Football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the South Florida Bulls on September 16, 2023, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How to balance recruiting in the transfer portal era has been a topic of conversation this week during the early signing period, where high school recruits can sign their letters of intent. 


Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked Thursday how his program goes about recruiting in the transfer portal era. 

“We don’t really have a specific number on it. Basically, we look at the transfer portal a lot like free agency. If we have a need on our team, because if a guy is going to transfer, he probably needs to play. He’s looking for a place to play. So, it’s important for him to be able to play. It’s important for you to be able to need him to play,” Saban said on “The Pat McAfee Show.” 

“So, we look at the transfer portal like, if we’re missing maybe a left tackle, or we’re missing a linebacker on defense – whatever the position is – we’re really searching to try to compliment our roster with guys that we can get from the transfer portal.”

Nick Saban coaches against Georgia

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts to a play during the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Alabama has just one player committed from the transfer portal for the 2024 season, while the Crimson Tide pulled in the second-ranked recruiting class of the year, according to 247 Sports. 

It’s an approach that differs greatly from Saban’s friend and head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes, Deion Sanders

Sanders was the architect of the greatest roster flip that college football has ever seen, utilizing the transfer portal in his first season as head coach to infuse his roster with new talent. 

Sanders is going about his second offseason similarly, loading up on transfers who can make an impact immediately. 

Deion Sanders before playing Colorado State

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders takes the field for warmups before the Rocky Mountain Showdown against the Colorado State Rams at Folsom Field on September 16, 2023.  (Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)


As of December 22, Colorado has the top transfer class, according to 247 Sports. The Buffaloes have signed 16 transfers, including six four-star players. 

The high school recruiting is another story, as Colorado is ranked 99th in the country after day one of the early signing period. Colorado had just five players sign national letters of intent and is still waiting for five-star offensive tackle Jordan Seaton to sign.