Lucky Seven

Last year we listed the 12 true freshman on the Crimson Tide football team most likely to see the field as true freshman, (The Dirty Dozen) along with their percentage chances of getting playing time in their first season.

Of the 12 names we listed, 10 of them played last season, and no true freshmen who weren't on our list played.

And of the two we missed on, Roy Upchurch suffered a season-ending injury just days after the report and Prince Hall redshirted. Hall was number 12 on our list with the lowest percentage chance of playing among any in the Dirty Dozen.

This year there won't be a dozen true freshman to see the field for the Alabama football team. That is a product of better depth and further removal from crippling NCAA sanctions. Crimson Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said in July that he could see playing five or six true freshman this season, but that number estimate may have since gone up.

"It could be more," he said Tuesday. "We've got some guys I think are more ready to play. They've come in better shape and picked things up faster. They've showed they've got some talent and might be ready to play. If we do (play more freshman) I think this year the mindset is going to be because they've earned, and not as much of a depth issue."

So, here are BamaMag.com's predictions of the Lucky Seven true freshman who will see the field for Alabama this fall.

There's one caveat, however, at the placekicker position. The wild card this year is Leigh Tiffin. He has a great chance to kick as a true freshman for Alabama this year, considering Jamie Christensen's groin injury. Christensen had improved by leaps and bounds before the injury, and we hope he is healthy so that Tiffin might redshirt and give Alabama a great kicker for one extra year. So Leigh Tiffin's not on our list.

1. Andre Smith, LT
Smith is likely to be the first true freshman to start for Alabama on the offensive line since Larry Rose did so in 1985, Mike Shula's junior year. There are good odds that he will be the starter, but as sure as Alabama will be wearing crimson next Saturday, Smith will play this season. Smith's likelihood of playing this year: 99.99 per cent.

2. Javier Arenas, PR
Alabama has been looking for a someone who can adequately return punts since Tyrone Prothro got hurt mid-way through last season. Arenas has looked good, but not perfect. He is still in close contention with Simeon Castille for punt return duties, and has also worked on kickoff returns. Chances are pretty good, however, that Arenas will get a chance in the return game early and often. His big-play ability was evident when he returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown at the second Alabama scrimmage. Arenas' likelihood of playing this year: 95 per cent.

3. Terry Grant, RB/KR
Grant wouldn't have been on many peoples' lists before his first scrimmage, but after two touchdown runs of 45-plus yards in the first scrimmage, it became clear that Grant is ready to play in the Southeastern Conference. A team like Alabama can never have enough running backs, and Grant brings pure speed and explosiveness to the position. He has also worked with Arenas at kickoff returns, and it's possible we could see to true freshmen back deep on kickoff returns.Grant's likelihood of playing this year: 95 per cent.

4. Justin Woodall, S
Woodall might be the most athletic signee this side of big Andre Smith. He turned down big bucks from professional baseball to come to Alabama, and quickly and frequently caught the eye of Mike Shula. Had Woodall not injured his ankle a week ago, he would likely be number two on this list. As it is, he's still likely to play in the defensive backfield this season. Woodall's likelihood of playing this year: 95 per cent.

5. Mike McCoy, WR
Mike Shula said in the spring that the receiver position would be one sure spot a true freshman or more would have a chance to come in and play right away. McCoy has appeared the best of these, getting lots of passes thrown his way in fall camp. McCoy drove over from Mississippi for pass skeleton drills in the summer to get a jump on things, and it is likely to pay off in him seeing the field this season. McCoy's likelihood of playing this year: 90 per cent.

6. Marquis Johnson, CB
Defensive backs are the deepest spot on the Alabama squad, and it didn't appear that a true freshman would crack the lineup until earlier this week, when Shula made it a point to mention Johnson's good work and that "we're going to take a look at him and see if we can get him on the field." Johnson's confident and mature for a freshman, and he was in Tuscaloosa early, too. Defensive coordinator Joe Kines said pass-rusher and cover corner were the two easiest spots for a young guy to contribute early, so it appears the odds have changed in Johnson's favor. He's also athletic enough to be a valuable special teams player, making the decision to play even more likely. Johnson's likelihood of playing this year: 90 per cent.

7. Earl Alexander, WR
Alexander was athletic enough for a position swap from quarterback to wide receiver to appear natural, and that change was indeed made to give Alabama better numbers at receiver. Shula has been impressed with Alexander's work as he has made the adjustment. Because of the newness, he might be just a bit behind Mike McCoy, but chances are still good that Earl will round out the Lucky Seven. Alexander's likelihood of playing this year: 85 per cent.


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