TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Evan Neal has been a mainstay along the Alabama offensive line for the last three years and will likely be a top five NFL draft pick at left tackle in April.
While Neal has been starting since his freshman year, two Crimson Tide players who saw an increased workload and playing time in the Iron Bowl were running back Trey Sanders and true freshman wide receiver Ja'Corey Brooks.
Sanders had to play at running back for most of the fourth quarter and all four overtimes after starter Brian Robinson Jr. went out with a lower body muscle pull. Brooks became a go-to receiver late in the game and scored the game-tying touchdown after Jameson Williams was ejected for targeting.
What do Neal, Sanders and Brooks have in common? They all played for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
"IMG is kind of like a mini-Alabama," Neal explained on Tuesday. "Basically how they structure everything, they really make sure guys come out of IMG prepared to go into college and prepared to step in and fill in a role. So hats off to IMG Academy and their entire program. They develops us as players.”
There are currently six players on the Alabama roster from IMG, but there have been guys in the past like Bo Scarbrough and Dylan Moses also came to Tuscaloosa from the prep school.
In Alabama's 2022 recruiting class, there are currently two commitments from IMG. Offensive lineman Tyler Booker committed to the Crimson Tide back in July and is ranked No. 27 in the SI99 player rankings for the class of 2022.
At the time of his commitment, Booker told SI All-American that his connection with Neal and freshman offensive lineman and fellow IMG product JC Latham helped him make his decision to come to Tuscaloosa.
"The thing that Evan said to me that made me really commit was that he went to Alabama for the same reason he went to IMG, to be great and to be the top dog amongst the top dogs, and once he said that, I was like 'Alabama is the place for me,'" Booker said.
In early October, tight end Jaleel Skinner became the second IMG prospect in the class of 2022 to commit to Alabama. Skinner is ranked No. 36 in the SI99 and is the highest rated tight end in the class.
Outside of football, Alabama basketball also signed the top point guard in the class of 2022, Jaden Bradley, out of IMG Academy.
Saturday's Iron Bowl victory showed the impact that the Bradenton to Tuscaloosa pipeline is having for Alabama football, and Booker and Skinner will look to add to that connection starting next season.