Nine New Players Join Tide For Spring
The other thing that has made spring practice seem like a spring fling is something tougher than football -- Alabama Coach Nick Saban's Fourth Quarter Program.
Saban is a firm believer in players being stronger and in better shape than any other teams, and the Fourth Quarter program of strength and conditioning propels Crimson Tide players to be their best physically and mentally. Most Bama players have been through the program in the past, but for late-comers – the 2010 signees who entered The University last August and the 2011 signees who came aboard this January – it's a new experience.
Spring training is scheduled to begin on March 21, following spring break at The University, and conclude on April 16 when Alabama has its A-Day Game in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
There are nine men who have recently become a part of Alabama football preparing for spring practice. Where will these recent signees fit in?
The newcomers include two who signed in 2010, then delayed entry as fulltime Bama students until January, so-called grayshirts. They are wide receiver Ronald Carswell and defensive end Wilson Love.
There are three junior college transfers. Aaron Douglas is an offensive tackle, while Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial are defensive linemen.
Mid-term high school graduates who have entered The University are running back Dee Hart, quarterback Phillip Ely, linebacker Trey DePriest, and linebacker/safety Vinnie Sunseri.
Traditionally, some positions are easier for newcomers to get playing time than others. Wide receivers and defensive backs are among those who sometimes have the easiest transitions. Quarterbacks and offensive linemen usually have a more difficult time getting onto the field. But there are plenty of exceptions.
Saban will not have a depth chart. If he did, most of these newcomers would be pretty far down the list. For instance, Ely has both soph A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims (who entered Alabama in January last year) ahead of him at quarterback.
Hart was a record-setter in being named outstanding player in the U.S. Army All-American game, but tailback is a tough position. Hart will be behind the likes of Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, Demetrius Goode, Jalston Fowler and Corey Grant at running back.
Alabama ordinarily uses three wide receivers, which opens things up a bit for Carswell, but in addition to first team stars Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks returning, the Tide has experienced hands in Kevin Norwood, Michael Bowman, Brandon Gibson, and Kenny Bell, and highly regarded redshirts Keiwon Malone, DeAndrew White, and Blake Sims.
One newcomer on offense is considered to be immediately in the mix as a first team player. Douglas was a starter at Tennessee as a right tackle in 2009, then transferred to Arizona Western Junior College. He is expected to compete for the starting job at left tackle, which was vacated by the graduation of another former junior college transfer, James Carpenter. Many expect recently signed freshman Cyrus Kouandjio to compete at this spot in August, but for now Douglas can expect competition from senior Alfred McCullough and junior Tyler Love.
Love's brother, Wilson, a grayshirt last year, has gained weight during his semester away from football, but will be in a very, very large group of defensive ends. Bama lost both of the listed 2010 starters at end, Luther Davis and Marcell Dareus, but in truth Davis did not start many games. Returning players Damion Square and Kerry Murphy have the most starts at end, Square six and Murphy five. Darrington Sentimore is considered a possible starter.
One of the junior college transfers, Dial, is also expected to begin spring practice as an end.
The Tide returns its top two men at nose tackle in Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry, but junior college transfer Williams (6-4, 340), a native of Australia who reminds many of former Tide star Terrence Cody, could be in the mix.
DePriest was ranked as the nation's top ranked outside linebacker prospect. In Alabama's 3-4 defense, the jack and strongside linebackers are the outside men. More often than not, Bama's 3-4 turns into a 3-3 with an extra defensive back, but a strongside linebacker who can cover a receiver makes him more likely to be on the field. Courtney Upshaw leads the candidates at jack linebacker (more of a pass rush position). DePriest may be competing with Jarrell Harris, Alex Watkins, and Ed Stinson at strongside.
For now, Sunseri is listed as an inside linebacker, but he has made it clear he is not averse to changing positions. Many believe his future is at safety. Bama makes good use of the safeties in its defense, and with nickel and dime situations. Mark Barron, the Tide's returning All-America strong safety, is expected to be limited in spring practice, so Sunseri could end up there competing with Will Lowery, Nick Perry, and Wesley Neighbors.
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