Isaiah Bond transfers to Texas: Nick Saban’s retirement ‘100%’ motivated exit, says ex-Alabama wideout

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Former Alabama wide receiver Isaiah Bond will transfer to Texas, a “business decision” that was “100%” motivated by Nick Saban’s retirement, Bond told ESPN. Transferring to the Longhorns carries significant meaning, past and present: Texas, of course, beat Alabama in Week 2 of the 2023 season and will join the SEC this year. Alabama and Texas are not scheduled to play in 2024. 

Bond was the Crimson Tide’s leader with 48 receptions during his sophomore season that ended with an SEC championship run and College Football Playoff appearance. Bond was the Tide’s second-leading receiver overall with 668 yards and four touchdowns, the most notable of which came in the Iron Bowl on a 31-yard Hail Mary from Jalen Milroe on fourth-and-goal with 32 seconds left. 

His departure after Saban’s retirement is allowable — players have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal with a coaching transition — but significant given the general shift going on within the Crimson Tide program, which just hired Kalen DeBoer from Washington as Saban’s successor. 

Conversely, Bond’s arrival at Texas is a massive win for coach Steve Sarkisian coming off a CFP run. The Longhorns lose receivers Xavier Worthy, AD Mitchell, and Jordan Whittington and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders to the NFL Draft. Quarterback Quinn Ewers is back, however, which, when combined with Bond, could replicate some of that potency we saw from Texas’ offense at its best. 

Bond’s breakout potential

Bond will enter the 2024 season as a potential college football breakout star. Though his play at Alabama and game-winning touchdown against Auburn have already made him a name of note in the sport, he should see another uptick in production. Considering how much pass-catching production Texas is losing and the quality of quarterback he’ll be playing with next season, there will likely be an opportunity for him to flirt with or surpass 1,000 yards receiving as Worthy did for the Longhorns in 2023.

Bond lined up both in the slot and out wide for Alabama in 2023, showcasing his versatility. He plays bigger than his 5-foot-11 and 182-pound frame on the outside but is still fast enough to torment mismatched defenders in the slot. That makes him a natural replacement for Worthy, a player with a similar physical frame who also lined up in in both receiver positions with regularity in 2023.

Risk with leaving Alabama

Bond’s transfer destination is understandable given the Longhorns’ need for talent at receiver, but there is an opportunity cost associated with leaving Alabama. While there was an obvious drop-off in the Crimson Tide’s passing game from 2022 to 2023 as Jalen Milroe took over at quarterback for former Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, new Crimson Tide coach Kalen DeBoer is regarded as an offensive guru.

Under DeBoer’s direction, Washington emerged as one of the nation’s top passing offenses over the past two seasons. Receivers Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan thrived for the Huskies, with all three notching 1,000-yard seasons in DeBoer’s system and Odunze reaching that threshold twice. There is no guarantee that DeBoer’s philosophy will be implemented as seamlessly in the SEC as it was in the Pac-12, but Alabama should nonetheless be a highly attractive destination for talented receivers because of DeBoer’s track record.

 

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