Alabama’s 2019 signing class has already taken a hit this season with the preseason injury to five-star running back Trey Sanders and now the highest-ranked member of the Crimson Tide’s latest signing class is exploring his options outside of Tuscaloosa after arriving on campus less than 12 months ago.

Five-star defensive end and New Jersey native Antonio Alfano has been MIA recently, according to Nick Saban, and now we know why.

According to Alfano’s father, Frankie, his son is having a difficult time dealing with his grandmother’s illness and is currently exploring his options in the NCAA transfer portal. Frankie Alfano shared the following comments on Twitter Friday morning:

“I’ve received many messages from the media regarding Antonio. It’s too bad that most of the media only reach out when there’s potentially bad or negative news. I’m confident my following response will answer all of your questions:

“Antonio’s grandmother recently fell very ill and is still fighting on life support. He is very close with her. Since this illness took effect, Antonio has taken it very hard. He has not attended classes and practices.

“The University of Alabama has been extremely supportive and I couldn’t ask for better support from them.

“Yesterday, Antonio asked to be placed in the transfer portal to see what his options are. Although he’s in the transfer portal, he still can decide to remain at the University of Alabama. My opinion is that Antonio should stay at the University of Alabama. However, he’s an adult and it’s his decision.

“Antonio knows that his family has & will always be there for him.”

Alfano was rated as the nation’s No. 5 overall prospect in the 2019 recruiting cycle by 247Sports Composite Rankings. Entering the portal does not guarantee Alfano is leaving Alabama, but it is the first step in the process as other programs will now be able to freely contact the former elite recruit.

During his recent press conference, Saban was asked for an update on the status of the five-star freshman, to which the Alabama coach said, “not really. He’s kind of disappeared a little bit.”

The Alabama coach then offered up a more cryptic statement regarding the need to avoid compounding mistakes that everyone is capable of making.

“I talked to our team today about the fact that — people make mistakes, we all make mistakes. I make mistakes, probably everybody in this room makes mistakes. We make mistakes as parents, we make mistakes as coaches, we make mistakes in just about everything that we do,” Saban said on Wednesday. “But I think you compound the problem when you don’t confront the mistakes you make and you create greater consequences for yourself because of the decisions and choices that you make — after you make a mistake. So, hopefully, this will be a learning experience for all the guys on our team.”

Alfano signed with Alabama over scholarship offers from Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, Clemson, Penn State and Rutgers, among many others.