When Jaheim Oatis originally committed to Alabama he weighed in at 416-pounds. His size was a reason why the Crimson Tide valued him as a four-star recruit, but it was clear that he would need to put in some work to get down to a more manageable weight if he was looking to contribute.
But just a few months following his December signing to the program and Oatis has accepted and excelled with the new challenge.
The Columbia, Miss., native kept fans updated with his weight loss journey throughout and recently revealed that he’s down 74 pounds. His commitment to improving his body is something the staff has been very pleased to see during his brief time at Alabama with defensive coordinator Pete Golding raving about his progress.
“To see his transformation over a four-year period, because Jaheim first came to camp here in eighth grade and he got an offer in eighth grade,” Golding said on Sunday. “Obviously, you could see spurts on tape throughout his high school career that he could be really special. And you could see a lot of plays where he’s taking a play off. I was like, ‘OK, well, that’s gonna get us beat.’
“So the most exciting thing for me with Jaheim, he’s always been a great kid, but when he accepted to come to Alabama, he knew what it was going to take. He knew it was going to be hard. He could have gone to a lot of other places where he wouldn’t be asked to do what he would be asked to do here.
“He knew weight was the biggest thing, was what we had to focus on, and that ended up being one of the biggest decisions to come was the nutrition with Miss Amy (Bragg), the strength and conditioning, to develop him and get him down to where he needed to be to play good, winning football. And he’s done an unbelievable job of that. So I’m excited about him.”
The overall weight loss on Alabama’s roster has been a positive for the entire staff as Nick Saban applauded the efforts of strength coach David Ballou and Alabama’s director of performance nutrition Amy Bragg.
“I am pleased with several of our guys,” Saban said. “We’ve almost eliminated a lot of weight issues, which come from a scientific approach. Not me looking at a guy and saying he needs to lose 10 pounds but a muscle mass, body fat correlation that helps a guy be more efficient. And I’m pleased with the way a lot of our big guys have sort of got that into balance.
“I think Miss Amy does a really good job of helping guys. And again, it goes back to the kind of choices and decisions you make about what you eat, when you eat it, how much you eat of certain things that can create the kind of increase of muscle mass, decrease of body fat, that makes you a more efficient player. When I say efficient, I’m not talking about your ability to do something once. I’m talking about your ability to sustain it for 40-50 plays in a game at the same high level.
“Those guys have done a good job. I think it’s contributing to them being better football players. And I’m pretty pleased with the overall team improvements that we’ve made from that standpoint, as well as explosive movements and speed. I think Dave Ballou and his group have done a really good job of motivating the players to work hard in some of those areas, which hopefully will be helpful on the field.”
Like Saban said the adjustment of his body weight has appeared to translate to success early on the field for Oatis who has added new aspects to his game. As Alabama looks for an interior pass rush, Oatis has shown to be capable of potentially contributing as he moves much better than his current weight would suggest.
“Believe it or not, Jaheim has got a lot more wiggle than y’all are gonna think he’s got,” Golding said. “So he’s a guy internally that if you one guy on him, good luck.”
The Crimson Tide’s top defensive player Will Anderson has also been somebody impressed by Oatis’ performance at practice and willingness to change his body. While studying practice film, Anderson admitted during his media availability, that he gets distracted sometimes by what the big man does in the middle of the defense.
“I’m very excited about Jaheim,” Anderson said on Monday. “He’s great. He comes to work every day. He’s a hard worker and you know a lot of big guys, they would complain about being that big and having to lose that type of weight. But he came here, head down, worked hard, lost the weight. He’s moving good.
“For a guy like that size to move like that, it’s crazy. Sometimes, I get distracted watching film, watching him take on blocks. It’s like a steel wall like he’s not moving.”
Alabama still has 14 fall camp sessions and two scrimmages to go before game week preparation begins for Utah State. But Oatis’ commitment to losing weight along with his impressive play up front could potentially position him to be a breakthrough freshman for this Alabama defense.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77