Picking Six-Pack Of Newcomers
Consider the variables, beginning with Alabama being one of the favorites for the national championship based on the number of returning starters and stars. A team with numerous question marks might be more inclined to play a freshman than would a squad stocked with men who have been in the program. On the other hand, Bama's newcomers aren't ordinary newcomers. They rank among the nation's best.
There are other considerations in making a judgment on which newcomers to expect to contribute, not the least of which is that I haven't seen them...and even if I had, I'm hardly capable of ranking new players against returning players.
Alabama's newcomers can be put into various groups, which is one place to start. There are junior college players who went through spring practice, defensive linemen Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial. There is a junior college transfer who will enter The University on August 24, when classes begin, but who will begin working with the Tide when practice begins Friday. That is wide receiver Duron Carter.
There are freshmen who went through spring practice – safety Vinnie Sunseri, linebacker Trey DePriest, quarterback Phillip Ely, defensive lineman Wilson Love, and tailback Dee Hart. Although we have not had official word, we know that Hart suffered a summer knee injury that required surgery, and it is believed that he will not be available this season.
The final group, of course, is incoming freshmen, most of whom have been in Tuscaloosa all summer working out.
The exception to those freshmen who have arrived in time to take part in summer workouts is one of the best, Brent Calloway, an outstanding athlete who figures to be in the tailback mix if he completes academic work.
Other than Hart, the newcomers are thought to be healthy, but it's never a shock when it is learned that an incoming player won't be able to participate because of some injury suffered before arriving at Bama.
As Coach Nick Saban has pointed out, many newcomers get their first action as members of special teams, particularly in coverage and returns on punts and kickoffs.
For a newcomer to make his way into the playing rotation, he must be good enough to fill a need.
Historically, there are positions where a newcomer is less likely to be able to start. The one most cited is quarterback. Even though Ely was in Tuscaloosa for spring drills, he would be considered a very long shot to challenge either A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims.
The offensive line is also considered a difficult place for a newcomer to start, although Alabama has had newcomers start at the critical left tackle position in each of the last two transitions – freshman Andre Smith in 2007 and junior college transfer James Carpenter in 2009. Both went on to be first round NFL draft choices.
Left tackle is the one spot on the offensive line where Alabama lost the starter from 2010. That doesn't mean a newcomer will start there. In the last week of spring practice, all-star right guard Barrett Jones moves to left tackle, and that may be the scenario this fall. A top signee, however, is a possible left tackle candidate. Cyrus Kouandjio is the subject of that speculation.
(Junior college transfer Aaron Douglas, who had worked at left tackle in the spring, lost his life in a summer tragedy.)
Center Ryan Kelly has been reported as likely to come in rehabilitating a knee. Isaac Luatua is a four-star guard prospect.
Junior college players ordinarily are signed with the idea they will be immediate contributors. Dial emerged from spring drills as a contender at a defensive end spot. Jesse Williams has the versatility to play both at end and inside. The other junior college transfer who will be working with the Tide this week, wide receiver Duron Carter, isn't a typical JC man. He played at Ohio State before going to junior college. And wide receiver is an area where Bama has some need with the loss of Julio Jones to the NFL and particularly with Darius Hanks having to sit out the first two games in exchange for a redshirt season gained in 2007.
Wide receiver and defensive back are areas where newcomers have traditionally been able to fit in. All starters and some key reserves return in the secondary and there are a number of wide receivers on the roster, but it is still possible for a newcomer to make the playing rotation.
In the secondary, Sunseri showed in the spring he can be a factor. Ha'sean Clinton-Dix was ranked the number one safety prospect in the nation by Scout.com. Christion Jones and Jabriel Washington were both four-star prospects.
Until the return of Hanks, Alabama has only one truly experienced wide receiver – Marquis Maze. (Maze had 38 receptions last year. The next highest number of catches by a returning wide receiver is Brandon Gibson with four.) Carter gets the nod as newcomer most likely to contribute, but there are four incoming freshmen all-stars in Ronald Carswell, Marvin Shinn, Bradley Sylve, and Danny Woodson.
Bama likes to use a lot of tight ends. The only one in the freshman class is Malcolm Faciane.
Linebackers are also used in abundance in Alabama's complicated defensive schemes. DePriest looks to be a can't miss prospect in this corps.
In addition to junior college transfers Dial and Williams, Alabama added prep defensive line stars in Xzaiver Dickson (who could also be a linebacker), LaMichael Fanning, Wilson Love, Jeoffrey Pagan, and D.J. Pettway. Considering the returning defensive linemen, this looks like a tough spot for the freshmen to get into the rotation.
All things considered, our best guess at six newcomers who may make their way into the rotation (first or second team on offense or defense):
Defensive end Quinton Dial
Wide receiver Duron Carter
Linebacker Trey DePriest
Defensive lineman Jesse Williams
Tailback Brent Calloway
Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio
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