Alabama Coach Nick Saban has been able to extract the teeth from one recruiting ploy used against the Crimson Tide. Prospects looking at Bama and other schools are told by Alabama rivals that because of the stockpile of great players already in the Saban fold that it will be difficult for freshmen to get playing time at Bama.
Not so. Alabama under Saban has historically played a number of true freshmen. Many of them get their early action on special teams, but it has also been demonstrated that Saban is going to play the best players regardless of class. Moreover, the Tide will play a lot of men, and freshmen often rise into the two deep.
Through four games this year, Alabama has played 14 freshmen. Two of them – quarterback Jalen Hurts and right tackle Jonah Williams – are starters, and tight end Miller Forristall started against Southern Cal in the opening game. With soph tailback Damien Harris nursing an ankle injury, it is possible that another freshman -- either Joshua Jacobs or B.J. Emmons – could start this week against Kentucky.
Alabama hosts the Wildcats for Homecoming at 6 p.m. CDT Saturday. The Tide, ranked first in the nation, is 4-0 overall and 1-0 in Southeastern Conference games. Kentucky is 2-2 and 1-1 in the SEC, coming off a 17-10 win over South Carolina.
Other true freshmen who have already seen action for Bama this year are two who have played on both offense and defense, wide receiver-defensive back Trevon Diggs and linebacker-fullback Mack Wilson.
Alabama has also used defensive back Shyheim Carter, defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, linebacker Terrell Hall, defensive lineman Jamar King, defensive back Jared Mayden, defensive back Aaron Robinson, and wide receiver T.J. Simmons.
Saban was asked what goes into preparing freshmen to play at the highest level of college football. He said, “I think it’s a work in progress, and every guy responds to it a little bit differently. I think it’s a lot about the maturity of the player and how he looks at what he needs to do to be a college football player. I think a lot of guys have the maturity, understand what they have to do to go out there and work every day to learn how they can be productive players, and that’s their mind-set.
“And when they do it they improve and have a chance to contribute to the team.
“Sometimes guys are maybe a little less likely to understand what it takes for them to be a player and the expectations sort of overwhelm them a little bit and it takes them a little longer to develop. But we’ve been pretty fortunate this year to have a group of guys that have been able to contribute and that’s been very helpful to the depth of our team.”