Time To Find 55 Football Players

Alabama's football players are enjoying the second day of a two-day break from practice. That doesn't mean there is no football activity. No one made an announcement, but the suspicion is that the Crimson Tide coaching staff is at work making some tough decisions.

Alabama has been in fall camp with 105 players. On Wednesday, classes begin at The University. That means the roster can be expanded, and it is possible that perhaps 20 will be joining the fall camp group. For the most part, any additions will have only a scant chance of participating, particularly in early games.

That is not because the additions will be behind insofar as preparation for the first game. Alabama is expected to start game planning for Kent State later this week. Bama opens the season hosting Kent State on September 3, which is less than two weeks away.

Alabama followers are most curious about the situation regarding Duron Carter, a 6-4, 210-pound wide receiver from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He finished his junior college classes in mid-summer and moved to Tuscaloosa, but reports are that The University has not yet received the transcript, and therefore Carter has not been eligible to participate.

Also not reporting for fall camp (with no reason given) was wide receiver Danny Woodson, a 6-1 freshman from Mobile. Earlier Coach Nick Saban had said he hoped that Woodson might be able to join the team when classes started.

While the roster may expand this week, the potential playing roster is expected to be defined with a fewer number of players. Saban has mentioned the number 55 as what he and his staff will expect to have ready to play.

There are many factors that go into determining the 55. Obviously, the very best players will be a part of it. But there are also things such as:

• How many are needed at each position? Most teams will carry a minimum of three quarterbacks and three centers, for instance.

• How do the special teams factor in? Players who can play a position and also a vital role on special teams have an extra chance to make the 55. For instance, true freshman Trey DePriest is a back-up linebacker who has been mentioned by Saban as having the potential to help on kick coverage.

• Who can play more than one position? Barrett Jones has shown that he can play every offensive line spot, including center, which makes him particularly valuable. Of course, Jones is an All-America candidate who would make the list of 55 in any event. The fact that he could be a starter at one position, for instance guard, and also be the "insurance" center could factor into how many offensive linemen are in the 55. More to the point, a many like Blake Sims who can play quarterback or running back (and probably wide receiver and defensive back) and also return kicks makes his way into the 55 even if he's only third team.

Alfred McCullough has played both guard and tackle on offense and junior college transfer Jesse Williams can play nose tackle and defensive end.

There has to be a deep snapper (Carson Tinker) and someone else who can do the job, either a back-up snapper or some position player. It's likely Bama will carry two punters and certain the Tide will have two placekickers.

Last year A.J. McCarron was the back-up quarterback, and with that duty went the job of holding on field goals and extra points. This year McCarron may be the starting quarterback, and as such might not be put in that vulnerable position. But he might be. Hardie Buck, a walk-on wide receiver who plays on most special teams in coverage and returns, is also a holder.

Most of the interest is on freshmen. Can Cyrus Kouandjio step in at the critical left tackle position as a first year starter? Whether starter or not in the opening game, his name has been mentioned enough by Saban and by other players to indicate Kouandjio will be in the 55.

The small group of players made available to reporters are mostly returning starters, but also include a few back-ups, and do not include true freshmen. It is interesting to hear the names of freshmen they mention, particularly when not asked specifically about a freshman. A name that has been dropped with some frequency is linebacker Xzavier Dickson.

Trey Depriest and Vinnie Sunseri were freshmen who entered last spring and made an impression. Saban has talked about freshman safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.

Men with speed, such as true freshman wide receivers Ronald Carswell, Bradley Sylve, and Marvin Shinn, have traditionally had a chance for early playing time.

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