There is a reason some call the NCAA Transfer Portal the “NCAA Backup Portal,” and there are two sides to that.
In most cases, the players who enter the portal are unhappy because they are backups, so they transfer so they may start at their new school. And in some cases, a starter transfers to a larger or more winning program, so they can win a national championship.
That was the case with former LSU starting cornerback Eli Ricks, who transferred to Alabama after back-to-back, non-winning seasons at LSU in 2020 and ’21. But the junior has been a seldom-used backup through the Crimson Tide’s first six games this season. He has two tackles in five games played and apparently is unhappy.
On Tuesday, Ricks posted a new picture of himself on Instagram in his old uniform at LSU, where he started 11 games in the 2020 and ’21 seasons and played in 19 games. A freshman All-American and All-SEC freshman in 2020 at LSU, he removed his picture in an Alabama uniform and removed all Alabama content from his Instagram page.
A five-star prospect out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, in 2020 after playing Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, California, he signed with LSU as the No. 1 cornerback in the nation and No. 6 overall prospect in 2020. One of the top projected transfers in the portal after the 2021 season, he has struggled to answer that billing at Alabama.
LSU, which allowed 502 yards in a 40-13 loss to Tennessee Saturday, could use some help on defense. The fan base would likely welcome Ricks back.
But since Ricks has already transferred once, he cannot transfer back to LSU and be eligible immediately in 2023, according to NCAA transfer rules. He would have to sit out a year if he transfers again to a Football Bowl Subdivision school. He remains on Alabama’s roster at the moment.
ELI RICKS HAS ALWAYS BEEN A BAMA BACKUP
Ricks, who was a teammate of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young at Mater Dei High, was a backup through spring drills at Alabama. Ricks is still behind starting cornerbacks Terrion Arnold, who is a redshirt freshman, and sophomore Kool-Aid McKinstry. Junior college transfer Khyree Jackson has also played more than Ricks as a backup as he has been in six games and has made six tackles with one for a loss. So, Ricks is the No. 4 cornerback, and in some games this season has only played on special teams.
“The biggest thing for Eli is learning the system,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said when asked about Ricks after the 2022 spring game in April in which Ricks was a backup. “And sometimes it’s even more difficult for guys that played in a system.”
Ricks was in two disastrous systems at LSU — that of defensive coordinator Bo Pelini in 2020 when LSU went 5-5 with one of the worst defenses in the nation and in its history and in 2021 under Daronte Jones, who was a defensive coordinator for the first time since 2009 at Bowie State. Neither lasted more than a season.
Ricks was also injured for part of the 2021 season, playing in nine games. He made 11 tackles with a sack and an interception. As a freshman in 2020, Ricks showed promise with four interceptions, including two pick-sixes, and made 20 tackles.
In May of this year, Ricks was arrested near Laurel, Mississippi, on charges of speeding and marijuana possession. He was driving a 2018 Mercedes Benz BTM, according to Jones County Justice Court and Mississippi Highway Patrol records.
Ricks likely just needs to be patient and learn the position. If he is good enough, he will play at Alabama.