Alabama Coach Nick Saban recently pointed out that Alabama has played a large number of freshmen over the past nine years. As Saban begins his 10th year as coach of the Crimson Tide, there could be some interesting true freshmen in the mix for playing time.
For one thing, Alabama has often used freshmen as part of the coverage and return teams on punts and kickoffs, something of their baptism into college football.
But there have also been many freshmen who worked their way into the rotation, or even started. Or – see the likes of Cam Robinson, Calvin Ridley, Minkah Fitzpatrick – who even starred in their first college seasons.
Most of the freshman talk around the Alabama camp centers on quarterback Jalen Hurts. When Alabama issues its official depth chart Monday it would not be a surprise to see Hurts second, and many expect him to be first, or at least co-first with Cooper Bateman.
One freshman seems certain to be first team on that depth chart. Jonah Williams, who like Hurts entered The University and went through spring practice, was the No. 1 right tackle in the A-Day Game and seems to have held on to that position through fall camp.
The top two tailbacks are returning backups who played as freshmen last year, Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. But just as many freshmen who have had meaningful playing time in the Saban Era (i.e., Trent Richardson, T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry), it is expected that B.J. Emmons and/or Joshua Jacobs will be in the Bama rotation.
Miller Forristall was another of the freshmen who entered at mid-term last year and he was impressive in the A-Day game. He’s not going to beat out O.J. Howard at the slot tight end spot, but he seems to be someone who could get playing time.
Two freshmen emerged from summer workouts with high marks from Alabama upperclassmen. They are Raekwon Davis, a defensive lineman, and Shyheim Carter, a defensive back. More recently, we have heard good things about defensive linemen Quinnen Williams.
There’s a bit of a depth problem at Alabama’s two inside linebacker spots. Reuben Foster, Rashaan Evans, and Shaun Dion Hamilton are experienced hands, but depth may come from freshmen Ben Davis and Mack Wilson.
The secondary is a place where freshmen often make a mark, and Bama has suffered the loss of three defensive backs to transfer (Shawn Burgess-Becker, Maurice Smith, and Kendall Sheffield) and where one player is ineligible for as many as four games to start the season (Tony Brown). Moreover, Alabama usually plays with five defensive backs and sometimes uses six. In addition to Carter, Jared Mayden and Trevon Diggs have been mentioned.
In addition to the freshmen, graduate transfer wide receiver Gehrig Dieter and junior college transfer Jamar King, are newcomers who are expected to play a role for the Tide this year.