Making the transition from high school to college football isn’t easy for any player. It takes time.
Ale Kaho had less time than most players.
“When I first came here, it was hard to adjust,” he said after the SEC championship on Dec. 1. “I was new, I had to get used to everyone.”
Kaho’s first day of practice at Alabama was on Aug. 11, during the Crimson Tide’s eighth practice. He wasn’t able to put full pads on until Aug. 15, just two-and-a-half weeks before the season opened against Louisville.
That didn’t stop him from being one of just two true freshmen defensive players to participate in all 13 games this year. Kaho has 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, playing mostly on special teams. He was named special teams player of the week twice for his performances against LSU and Mississippi State. He was also one of four players named the special teams player of the year at Alabama’s award banquet last week.
He hasn’t played a major role at inside linebacker on defense. Sophomore Dylan Moses and junior Mack Wilson have been Alabama’s workhorses there. But he’s been learning. He’s been especially close to Moses, whom he called “the best linebacker in the country.” Kaho is often behind Moses in walk-throughs and in meetings, absorbing what he can.
“I’ve just learned so much, mentally and physically from this coaching staff and the best players in the country,” he said.
That hasn’t always been easy. Kaho was a highly-touted recruit, ranked as the No. 7 inside linebacker and the No. 133 overall player in the class of 2018 by the 247Sports Composite. But many of his Alabama teammates were also highly regarded.
There were returning players with years of experience. Early enrollees had been at Alabama for spring practice. Even the freshmen who arrived in July were ahead of him.
“I’m still in the process of catching up,” Kaho said. “I’m just taking it step by step, I’m not trying to rush it. I just talk to the older guys whenever I get frustrated, for advice or anything.”
His late arrival came after he initially signed with Washington, but was granted a release by the Huskies in August. Coach Nick Saban said when Kaho arrived that he was unable to be admitted to Washington for academic reasons, though he was an NCAA qualifier. Alabama had recruited Kaho previously, then reached out again after he was granted his release.
Kaho didn’t discuss specifics about his decision to leave Washington.
“Just some personal stuff that went down,” Kaho said. “This was the next school that gave me an opportunity, so I took it.”
The move has paid off for him so far, he said. The SEC championship was one of his goals when he began the season.
“The next step is to win the bowl game and to win a national championship,” he said.