Former Bastrop Ram Denzel Devall has been promoted to director of player development for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Denzel Devall's playing days are over, but the former Bastrop Ram is more involved than ever in the Alabama football program.
In fact, he has already received two promotions this year. Hired in July as Alabama's first player development personnel assistant, he was moved to assistant strength and conditioning coach in January. Late last week, he was elevated to director of player development.
Over the course of his playing career, Devall played in 50 games, drawing 25 starts at linebacker and defensive end. He was part of two national championship teams as a freshman (2012) and senior (2015).
When coach Nick Saban offered a position in the football program last summer, the opportunity to remain in Tuscaloosa was too good to pass up.
Devall has a wide range of responsibilities, most notably, assisting with recruiting.
"As player personnel assistant, I recruited, evaluated film and helped with player development — a little bit of everything," Devall said.
Devall has also taken on the role as a mentor.
"A lot of guys come to me and ask how I would handle a certain situation," Devall said. "I try to give them my reasoning and logic."
As one might imagine, Devall has entered a highly-competitive, demanding and fast-paced world. His work day begins at 5:15 a.m. and ends whenever.
"It's a never-ending business. There is always something to do," said Devall, who holds a degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on exercise science from Alabama. "You don't get time to chill. You go from recruiting to the offseason program, to spring practice and back to recruiting. We're always grinding and trying to get better. We never stop. I'm always working."
Recruiting the Boot
Although the 2016 season ended on a bitter note with a last-second, 35-31 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship game, there was no time to dwell on the disappointment. Alabama rebounded nicely by landing the nation's No. 1-rated recruiting class for the seventh consecutive year.
Devall met with each member of the class at one point, and was heavily involved in the recruitment of Bama's Louisiana signees — wide receiver Devonta Smith (Amite), defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs (Ruston/Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College) and Phil Mathis (Neville), and linebacker Chris Allen (Baton Rouge Southern Lab).
"I helped with the majority of the class, but my main responsibility is Louisiana," Devall said.
Devall's recruiting activities are limited to on-campus visits. NCAA rules allow only on-the-field staff to travel.
"Once they come on campus, we have them," Devall said. "It doesn't take much. This place sells itself. They just need a younger cat who has played here to reassure them. I talk to them about how to carry themselves, things like that."
Recruiting is one of Devall's favorite parts of the job.
"I love recruiting," Devall said. "You just have to know how to talk to people. There's an art to it."
Devall applies many of the same recruiting techniques that he learned while being recruited out of high school by former Alabama assistant Al Groh, who now coaches wide receivers for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I learned recruiting from the guy who recruited me," Devall said. "I just picked up on recruiting from coach Groh."
Devall says he started recruiting in an unofficial capacity upon his arrival at Alabama as a freshman.
"I've recruited every guy from Louisiana since I've been here," Devall said. "From Tim Williams to Cam Robinson to Hootie Jones, and the guys we have now, I recruited them all."
Alabama is currently in the midst of its offseason program. Spring practice starts in March, with the spring game to be played on Saturday, April 22.
Devall says the players seem to have an extra edge this winter.
"The luxury of losing the national championship game is to see how guys respond in the offseason," Devall said. "The guys have a chip on their shoulder. You tend to work a little harder after coming up short.
"I tell the guys, 'What you are do this offseason is going to make a difference next year.' The guys have responded. We have a great group of guys. They're young and hungry. These are the guys you want to go to war with."
For Devall, spring football is one of the most exciting times of the year.
"Spring ball is always the best part of the year to me because of the schedule," Devall said. "We practice Monday, watch film Tuesday, practice Wednesday, take Thursday off, and practice Friday and Saturday.
"Basically spring ball is to let guys compete. You see who gets on the field and who stays on the field."
Devall says the defensive line will be one of the focal points of spring drills.
"The defensive line is the main area we're working on," Devall said. "We have a couple of guys coming in on the defensive line. Isaiah Buggs from Ruston is a five-star guy and the No. 1 junior college defensive lineman. The Mathis kid out of Neville has a lot of upside to him. LaBryan Ray is the No. 1 defensive lineman out of Alabama. He has nice size (6-6, 260), and is a great athlete. We have some big shoes to fill, but I'm confident in the guys we have now and the ones we have coming in."
Devall eventually plans to land an on-the-field coaching job. Though several opportunities have come up, he has chosen to remain at Alabama. Obviously, his background under Saban is sure to open doors down the road.
"I've played for coach Saban and worked under him — that's always a plus," Devall said. "I'm confident that I will be on the field pretty soon. I've had a lot of opportunities."
Devall realizes that being able to experience Alabama's amazing run as a player and beyond is a rare opportunity.
"To have that discipline with the staff, players and organization — it's unbelievable," Devall said.
As much as he loves Alabama, Bastrop will always be home.
"Ask anybody here — players or coaches — 'Where is Denzel from?' They're going to say, 'Bastrop' or 'Strop City.' That's how much I love my city," Devall said.
For now, Devall just wants to help Alabama return to national championship form.
"That's the culture here — winning," Devall said. "We're not satisfied with any type of record if we're not holding up the trophy at the end of the doggone year. That's the standard. That's what is expected.
"I tell the guys all the time, 'Yall have to keep the legacy going. The guys before me started it, and we kept it going.' There's something about wearing that 'A' across your chest. You're playing for a bigger purpose."