At least half of the 25 class of 2013 signees Alabama inked on Wednesday has considerable high school experience on the other side of the ball. Some have the option to play whichever side of the ball they prefer, and others have options on one side of the ball depending on their position projection.
Then there are prospects like Derrick Henry, who played running back throughout high school despite arguably having a higher ceiling elsewhere or on defense. His versatility could be showcased by introducing him to a new offensive position, with H-back/hybrid being the most speculated early on, because of his skill-set.
That's the thing with versatility, it doesn't mean a talent would have had to play several positions. What one can and can't do may lend you to having the ability to develop into a star at a new position depending on the coaching once you arrive on that college's campus.
It's a focus not just at Alabama, but nationally. Take a guy like current USC wide receiver Marqise Lee. He was rated the No. 3 safety in America by Scout.com in the class of 2011, but is now a Biletnikoff Trophy winner and likely first round NFL Draft pick in 2014 as a menacing wide receiver.
On Alabama's roster, Nick Saban is famous for eyeing talent for certain spots, and the fresh class has its share of players that may be moved around. Henry isn't the only player in question here…several two-way and versatile prospects inked Crimson. Let's take a look.
Where will they play?
*Ardarius Stewart – 4-star WR on Scout – 6-foot-1, 185 lbs
Quick Take: Dee, as he is referred to most commonly, played QB/RB/WR/KR/PR/DB for Fultondale High in Birmingham (Ala.), and he could excel at either at the next level. I watched him get better every day as a defensive back against the state's best during the week of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, but he's destined to play wide receiver at Alabama. That has been the plan for the most part, and his explosiveness combined with his speed and "wiggle" in the open field will enable him to challenge for playing time sooner than later.
*Dee Liner – 4-star DT on Scout – 6-foot-4, 294 lbs
Quick Take: Liner is going to play defense at UA, but exactly where remains to be seen. His strengths are quickness and the ability to rush the passer well from the interior, but in Alabama's defense there are several options to facilitate that. Running a 3-4 scheme, which is the bulk of Alabama's defense, there is a nose guard-type of position right over the center in the "zero" or "one" hole, commonly referred to as a 1-technique. Should Liner add some weight and develop more strength in the strength and conditioning program, he could have a future in trying to replace Jesse Williams at the spot. Otherwise, look for Liner to get locked into a role as a 5-technique, commonly referred to as a defensive end, at UA. I see Liner as that 3-4 end, but it will take some technique and strength improvement beforehand.
*A'Shawn Robinson – 5-star DT on Scout – 6-foot-4, 305 lbs
Quick Take: The big Texan may be the toughest to gauge at this time, and it's a tribute to his athleticism. We, of course, list Robinson as the top defensive tackle prospect in America, so that's where the thought begins. He's big, strong and disruptive in the middle, and he has the size to take on SEC interior lineman all day long. But then there's his quickness and speed, which makes many wonder if offensive tackle is in his future. There's even outside chatter about possibly playing tight end like he did some in high school. But with his skill-set, and the rankings, his destiny may be similar to Liner's in that it may be a battle between tackle or end on the D-line.
*O.J. Howard – 5-star TE on Scout – 6-foot-5, 225 lbs
Quick Take: When the term "high ceiling" is used in high school football, players like O.J. epitomize the classification. It means he's shown all the signs to be great, but has to put it all together. Howard has done so with his ability to get down the field after running a good route and catching the ball, but he has to do it physically as well. His frame may not yet be ready to block SEC front-seven defenders, though his receiving talent screams early impact. So will he begin as an H-back, classic tight end or even at wide receiver. That's for the staff to figure out, but it's all the more reason why Howard enrolling last month and getting the extra time to assimilate to SEC football. Rooming with Derrick Henry helps.
*Eddie Jackson – 3-star WR on Scout – 6-foot, 180 lbs
Quick Take: Jackson was one of the late risers after a monster senior season, and it paid off with a scholarship from Alabama in which he capitalized on soon after. He played both wide receiver and defensive back, as well as return-man, at Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) Boyd Anderson High while excelling at each. But with the group of wideouts already in the class, and the more immediate need for UA on defense, he will begin his college career on that side of the ball. The only question from here, according to both Jackson and his head coach Wayne Blair, is whether he'll play corner or safety at the Capstone. Early indications my way are corner because of his speed and ball-skills, as well as his coach's NFL-worthy comparison of Jackson to a young Charles Woodson.
*Grant Hill – 4-star OG on Scout – 6-foot-6, 300 lbs
Quick Take: Hill is simply a star on the offensive line, simply put. He can play guard or tackle at the next level, and do each well with his work ethic and natural ability as well as his immense and now lean size. We have him as the No. 3 guard in America, and I think that's where he starts, but this guy as right tackle potential and not just the fill-in kind. Hill's mauler attitude may enable him to be a multi-year starter down the road at either position up front.
*Anthony Averett – 4-star CB on Scout – 6-foot-1, 178 lbs
Quick Take: Averett is a track star in New Jersey, and it enabled him to have a very successful career both as a running back and a quarterback at Woodbury (N.J.) High. He also played defense there, but wasn't used primarily how he might be at Alabama, which is cornerback. His height and speed make the most sense there, though he shouldn't be counted out in the return game provided he maintains his speed while adding weight. As a prospect on defense, he lacks the natural cover skills of physical nature of the most recent standout Alabama cornerbacks like Dre Kirkpatrick or Dee Milliner, but that can be developed with time. He's a project, but it makes his ceiling higher than most.