As Tide Head Coach Mike Shula has made clear, with many of the newcomers a final decision on whether to redshirt or not may not be made until well into the season. Several of the true freshmen (like the three offensive linemen and three wide receivers) are safe bets to be held out. Others will remain on the bubble for at least a month or so, depending on the injury situation with the team.
But a few newcomers should see action this Saturday versus South Florida.
Nagging health problems kept last year's starting fullback, Greg McLain, sidelined for much of fall camp. And super-frosh Le'Ron McClain didn't gain eligibility until halfway through two-a-days.
In their absence, running back Tim Castille stepped forward to take reps at the position. Castille will also play extensively on special teams. "I've just been working hard," Castille said. "I guess the coaches think I've done a little good during training camp."
On this week's depth chart Castille is listed second-string at the ambiguously labeled "F" position. "It's a little bit of everything," Castille said. "I catch the ball. I have to block. I don't get too many handoffs. It's a matter of combining several other skills that I have, and being able to go out on the field and use them."
It almost sounds like a position tailor-made for Castille's skills. "It's right up my alley, except without the handoffs," the former star tailback said laughing. "I really like taking those handoffs. But it's good being able to play early. Plus, the coaches adjusted things so I won't just be getting my brains busted in. Being able to catch a few balls makes it that much better."
Before fall camp, most pundits predicted a redshirt year for Castille. And at the time he didn't disagree. "Honestly, I wanted to play this year, but coming in I didn't know how much of a chance I'd have," Castille said. "I just wanted to come out and play. It didn't matter what position they put me at; I just wanted to be on the field on Saturdays.
"I had Greg (McLain) playing in front of me, but situations happen. Now I've got to be ready to go Saturday. It's a dream come true right now."
It's a given that most true freshman aren't physically ready to compete, and that assessment especially valid for defensive linemen. "That's true, but I'll be playing," D-Tackle Dominic Lee said shaking his head.
"Coach (Defensive Tackles Coach Buddy Wyatt) says he's confident that I can compete. Every day in practice he's working with me. He spends time at practice and in individual meetings, just helping me get ready."
With Alabama's lack of proven depth at tackle, many predicted Lee would be needed early. "It is a big learning process for me, more mental than physical," Lee said. "The coaches felt that I was physically ready. I just had to get ready mentally."
Going against All-Americans Justin Smiley and Wesley Britt in practice, at least Lee knows there won't be any surprises on game days. "They help me a lot," he acknowledged. "I think I'm going up against some of the best offensive linemen in the SEC. Our guards are good all around. They work hard, and that makes me have to work hard."
Lee has also benefited from advice from veterans Anthony Bryant and Ahmad Childress. He commented, "Those guys are helping. None of the defensive linemen have classes before practice, so we all go together and watch film. We discuss take notes. We discuss things together as a group."
Lee heads into this first college game as a member of the playing rotation at tackle. Did he expect that? "Honestly, not really," he replied. "But I felt that I could do it. I came in feeling good. I said to myself that if I could learn the defense and work hard, then maybe there was a chance. I was going to make the best of the opportunity."
Strongside linebacker Terrence Jones will see plenty of action on special teams, and he'll also likely work some on defense. "It's a surprise, but I'm looking forward to it," Jones said. "I hope I get out there and at least play a little bit. It'll be a new experience. I hope I do well. Maybe I can work my way up and get more playing time."
Jones was a playmaker in high school, but he understands all too well that college football is another game entirely. "I know I'm going to be nervous," he admitted. "I'm trying to get rid of my nerves early in practice this week."
Weakside linebacker Demarcus Waldrop and fullback Le'Ron McClain are also prime candidates to play this season and not redshirt. It's possible Waldrop could see immediate action this Saturday on special teams.
McClain got a late start on fall practice. He's still learning the position and would be a longshot to play versus South Florida. However, his status this season should change quickly as he learns the offense.
Cornerback Eric Gray is also a possibility to play on special teams. Whether or not he trots onto the field Saturday should quickly reveal Bama's plans for Gray this season.