Illinois Football: 5 Alabama players to target if they enter the transfer portal

Nov 11, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema reacts to
Nov 11, 2023; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema reacts to / Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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Illinois football still needs to add some talent before the 2024 season, so the transfer portal is something to keep an eye on.

In the past 24 hours, there has been some big news in the world of college football. One of the biggest stories is Alabama head coach Nick Saban retiring. While this news is big for teams trying to win on the football field, it is also big news for teams trying to win in the transfer portal. Crimson Tide players now have a 30-day window to enter the transfer portal because of the coaching change. This could be a chance for the Illini to add a talented player or two.

While there hasn't been any news of any new transfers from the Alabama program, there are a few players I would love on the Illinois roster if they did decide to enter the transfer portal.

Here are five Alabama players the Illinois football team should target if they enter the transfer portal

1. Damon Payne Jr.

  • Position: DL
  • Year: Junior
  • Hometown: Belleville, Michigan

Illinois lost the entire starting front three on the defensive side of the ball to the NFL and has done a great job bringing in new bodies to fill those voids.

But depth is still a concern on the defensive line. We don’t just need starters to play snaps, but the backups also have to be good and ready to come into the game for some playing time.

That is why if someone like Damon Payne Jr. becomes available in the transfer portal, it would be smart for Illinois to pursue the talented defensive lineman.

Coming out of Belleville High School in Michigan, Payne was a five-star recruit who was the No. 24 player in the class of 2021. He was also the No. 7 defensive lineman in the country and the best player in the state of Michigan.

In 2021, Payne took a redshirt. The following season, he played in six games for Alabama. In 2023, Payne played in every game for the Crimson Tide, seeing more than 20 snaps in one contest.

If Payne did enter the transfer portal, he would have two years of eligibility remaining. Illinois would be a good landing spot because we would give him a legitimate chance to start from day one. Payne needs a shot, and we could give that to him.