Will receiver Isaiah Bond regret leaving Alabama for Texas?

This is an opinion column.


If anyone was still in denial about the new world of college football, the transfer of Isaiah Bond from Alabama to Texas ended any doubt that the sport would ever be the same again.

Bond was the hero of the 2023 Iron Bowl. His game-winning touchdown reception on fourth-and-31 made him an instant legend of Crimson Tide football. He led Alabama in receiving yards in the SEC Championship Game. After another year in Tuscaloosa, everything was in place to continue the long tradition of Alabama receivers being taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Then the unthinkable happened. Bond transferred from Alabama shortly after Nick Saban announced his retirement from college football.

I won't call Bond a rogue villain, but it's fair to say that his decision to defraud Alabama shook the Crimson Tide and sent the rest of the SEC into disarray.

Of all the moves we've seen in college football since January, Bond's decision to give up hero status at Alabama to make more money at Texas is the most stunning twist of the offseason. To me, it was even more shocking than Saban's resignation.

Saban is 72 years old and throughout the 2023 season there were numerous signs that his career was coming to an end. My Saban retirement column was ready for publication weeks before the news. Bond's stunning flip took me completely by surprise.

Did Bond's request for more NIL money from Alabama influence Saban's decision to pursue a career? Since leaving, Saban has acknowledged that the changing motivations of modern college football players prompted him to retire. When Bond arrived in Austin, Texas after his transfer, the first thing he did was visit a local Lamborghini dealer.

Can Alabama keep up with the NIL collectives in Texas? Put it this way. The closest Lambo showrooms to Tuscaloosa are in Atlanta and Nashville. There are none in Alabama.

Fans may not like the changes in college football, but the real truth cannot be denied. While the sport continues to evolve every week, college football has never been more fascinating or popular. Over the next few months, I will be writing a series of columns focused on ten burning questions surrounding the SEC and college football.

Question #1: Will Isaiah Bond regret leaving Alabama?

NIL was the main factor in Bond's move west, but Bond also wanted to play for Texas coach Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian recruited Bond when the bankruptcy trustee was still in high school. They had an established relationship before Bond entered the transfer portal. When Saban retired, Bond was the first Alabama player to go. It opened the floodgates.

If direct coaching records are any indication, then perhaps Bond should have waited to see who Alabama would hire as Saban's successor.

Both Alabama and Texas reached the College Football Playoff last season. Both teams were eliminated in the semi-finals. Alabama lost to Mighian in overtime of the Rose Bowl and Texas couldn't keep up with Washington in the Sugar Bowl.

Alabama then hired Washington coach Kalen DeBoer to replace Saban. It was a bold move that was not without the potential for failure, but DeBoer's record against some of the best coaches in college football is undeniable. Against Sarkisian of Texas, DeBoer is 2-0 over the last two years.

Based on recent history, Bond made a wrong choice and should have waited for DeBeor to hear his suggestion.

There are other indicators of DeBoer's success at receiver, too. Check out the 2024 NFL Draft. Here too, DeBoer has the edge over Sarkisian.

Texas had an excellent draft class. The Longhorns set a program record with 11 selections, three of which were receivers. Xavier Worthy was drafted in the first round at No. 28, Adonai Mitchell was drafted in the second round at No. 52 overall, and Jordan Whittington was drafted in the sixth round.

Now compare these draft picks to the pass catchers Alabama's new coach just took in the draft. DeBoer's trio of former Washington receivers prevailed in front of the Texas three-pointer. Rome Odunze finished ninth overall after Chicago. Ja'Lynn Polk, a transfer from Texas Tech, was drafted in the second round, 37th overall. Jalen McMillan, a crisp route runner, went in the third round to Tampa Bay (92nd overall).

DeBoer scored a big win for Alabama when he convinced receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard to leave Washington and join the Crimson Tide. It was the most important hire for DeBoer's new employees. Former Washington receiver Germie Bernard followed Shephard to Tuscaloosa and, based on the spring game, will fill the role previously held by Bond.

Bernard is poised to become Alabama's new breakout star and Bond is the SEC's biggest X-factor heading into the 2024 season. A spot in the SEC Championship Game could come down to which player fits better with his new team.


Do you have a question for Joe? Do you want to get rid of something? Email Joe about what's on your mind for the weekly mailbag. Let your voice be heard. Ask him something.

Joseph Goodman is the leading sports columnist for Alabama Media Group and author of the most controversial sports book ever written, “We Want Bama: A Season of Hope and the Making of Nick Saban’s Ultimate Team.”

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