The Dirty Dozen

Among the questions asked of Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula and those knowledgable about the football program is about the number of true freshmen who will play this season. This year Shula has estimated that number will be in double-digits. Below is a prediction of a dozen Tide true freshmen who might get their jerseys dirty during a game at some point during the season.

1. John Parker Wilson, QB
Wilson isn't a true freshman in the truest since of the word, but he is one of 25 players that were allowed to report in August as a part of the 2005 signing class.

Wilson is a grayshirt, a designation he got by signing with Alabama in 2004 and agreeing to delay his enrollment for a semester, thus retaining all of his eligibility. His practice time in bowl preparation and in the past spring has been a well-documented success, and he is expected to be No. 2 behind Brodie Croyle when Alabama plays Middle Tennessee next week.

Wilson will not be the first true freshman to get on the field, as others are expected to be on either kickoff or kickoff return units. Nothing in life is ever certain, but it's a good bet Wilson will see action next week against MTSU, perhaps as early as the first quarter or first half. Wilson's likelihood of playing this year: 99 percent.

2. Jimmy Johns, HB
It's very likely that Jimmy Johns will be the first true freshman to hit the field in a game situation for the Crimson Tide this season. After beginning his Alabama career at quarterback, Johns waded into special teams duties before eventually sliding over to work with the running backs.

Whether or not he will return to quarterback remains a question for a later time.

But for now, there is little doubt he will be on the field against Middle Tennessee. He has worked on kickoff, kickoff return and punt units on special teams in addition to his running back assignments, so whichever way the coin falls on Sept. 3, Johns might very well be out there in number 10 for the opening kickoff. Johns' likelihood of playing this year: 99 percent

3. Chris Keys, S
Keys did not play football his senior year of high school, and the layoff has been noticed by the coaching staff. That fact makes all the more impressive the fact that Keys is a synch to play as a true freshman.

Shula said after the final scrimmage that Keys doesn't quite know what he's doing yet. But he quickly followed up by stating that he if he were a betting man he would pick Keys as one of the freshmen to play. Keys is big, strong and fast, and will be a factor in 2005. Keys' likelihood of playing this year: 95 percent

4. Marlon Davis, RG
Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula crowned Davis most likely to play among the freshmen offensive linemen very early in fall camp. Shula's statement was based more on the guard position being easier to step in at than tackle. But since that point, arthroscopic knee surgery by guard B.J. Stabler has made Davis a near-certain lock to play at some point in the season.

Davis took repetitions with the first-team offense when Antoine Caldwell was out for a few days with an ankle sprain (that caused RG Mark Sanders to move to LG), and it now appears that Davis is battling Sanders, and perhaps ahead of Sanders for the starting right guard spot on opening night.

Davis' likelihood of playing this year: 95 percent

5. Glen Coffee, HB
Coffee has appeared a half step ahead of fellow freshman Roy Upchurch from the beginning of fall training camp, but that's not to say there hasn't been competition. Coffee and Upchurch have similar builds and running styles, and while both had early bouts of butterfingers, Coffee held onto the ball better in later practices.

The recent move of Jimmy Johns from quarterback to running back has intensified competition for playing time, as have the encouraging returns to full speed of Kenneth Darby and Tim Castille.

Still, the pre-camp plan of the Alabama staff was to prepare two freshmen running backs for early playing time, and Coffee has impressed onlookers with his hard-running style. In addition, the coaches have said both Coffee and Upchurch have done surprisingly well at one of the hardest things for a young running back to learn, pass protection. Coffee's likelihood of playing this year: 90 percent

6. Roy Upchurch, HB
Upchurch has been slated for playing time since players reported to camp on August 8 and well before. Upchurch and Coffee have been very close in all competencies since that point, and nothing has happened to change those pre-season plans.

The move of Jimmy Johns from quarterback to halfback opened the possibilities for freshmen competing for playing time at the position wider than it had been, but odds are still in favor of Upchurch seeing the field in his true freshman campaign. Upchurch's likelihood of playing this year: 90 percent

7. Travis McCall, TE
If Alabama's recent history of health at the tight end position is any indication, there is no doubt McCall will see plenty of action this season. Injuries at the position to Trent Davidson and Greg McLain have already increased those chances. In fact, it's likely that McCall will be one of two true freshmen to play at tight end.

McCall has been lauded for his blocking ability at the position, and as he picks up the varied uses, movements and motions of the position with the passage of weeks in the season, he will become more in demand. McCall's likelihood of playing this year: 90 percent

8. Charles Hoke, TE
Hoke played more of a pass-catching split end than tight end and high school, and it is his size and athleticism that makes him attractive as a college tight end. With the absence of fall camp by Trent Davidson, and recent injury of Greg McLain, Hoke has gained more work lining up next to the tackle.

Hoke appears slightly ahead of fellow freshman Travis McCall, but it is safe to think both will play. Hoke's likelihood of playing this year: 90 percent

9. Bobby Greenwood, DE
Tide defensive coordinator Joe Kines said he would love to see three freshman in the defensive front seven assert themselves and earn playing time in fall camp. Since, Kines has repeatedly singled Greenwood out as the freshman defensive lineman who has stood out the most in fall camp.

Entering camp, Greenwood might have been a long shot for playing time this year, but a week out from the first game, Greenwood seems as likely as any true freshman on the defensive front seven to earn playing time. Greenwood's likelihood of playing this year: 90 percent

10. Lionel Mitchell, CB
Like Drew Davis and John Parker Wilson, Mitchell garnered his first practice time last December. A mid-year enrollee from Hargrave Prep, Mitchell benefited from practice in December and in the spring. In the fall he has had plenty opportunity for repetitions with starter Ramzee Robinson and back-up Eric Gray out of the rotation for most of the camp.

Mitchell looks to be in the two-deep at cornerback, and very likely to forgo the potential for a redshirt year. Mitchell's likelihood of playing this year: 90 percent

11. Cory Reamer, S
Reamer has show potential as a safety, but his best chance for early playing time will be as a core special teams player. He had a knack for making big plays at Hoover High School, and a big play or two from Reamer on special teams for the Crimson Tide might be well worth taking off the redshirt. Reamer's likelihood of playing this year: 85 percent

12. Prince Hall, MLB
Linebacker Prince Hall came the farthest, and arrived the latest for fall camp, but after a week or so of acclimating to the rigors of college football and adjusting to the humidity, it was easy to seen why Tide fans and coaches were so eager to see Hall.

At middle linebacker, he is behind Freddie Roach and Matt Collins, but he might be a better fit than Collins in certain situations because of his athletic ability and speed. Hall appears to provide the depth that Alabama's linebacking corps needed to possibly call itself one of the best in the nation. Hall's likelihood of playing this year: 85 percent


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