I thought I would do my own basic team preview, by position, and talk about the players that we will be watching suit up for the Tide in 2015. The order I place them is based on the depth chart that Alabama released on August 31. So it's not set in stone.
Jacob Coker, Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris, Blake Barnett, David Cornwell
Then for the past week, Alec Morris had stepped up and alot of us were predicting he would win the job. But then we hear that Coker has "taken command". At this point, Coker will probably take the first snap against Wisconsin. After that, it's up to him how long he stays in cause it's almost a guarantee from Saban that at least two QBs are going to play in the first game. Morris and Cooper Bateman have both come on strong lately, we still don't know who *The Guy* is going to be, and really it's not exactly the problem that everyone thinks it is when you realize that Saban has three different QBs that he trusts to start. That's the fact of the matter, and a lot of teams would love to have that problem. I have confidence in whoever takes the first snap, the most snaps, the least snaps. I just trust in Saban on this issue.
Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Damien Harris
|Derrick Henry at A-Day|
LT: Cam Robinson, Lester Cotton, Korren Kirven
LG: Ross Pierschbacher, Dallas Warmack, Isaac Luatua
C: Ryan Kelly, J.C. Hassenauer, Brandon Kennedy
RG: Alphonse Taylor/Bradley Bozeman, Richie Petibon
RT: Dominick Jackson, Brandon Greene, Matt Womack
Cam Robinson was a freshman All-American in 2014, and should be even better this year. As he is one of the best lineman in all of college football, we will lean a lot on running plays behind Cam. Ross Pierschbacher is a redshirt freshman who hasn't played yet, but has been the starting LG since the spring game and looks like he is a star in the making. Ryan Kelly is the leader of the group, a senior in his 3rd year as a starter. Alphonse Taylor and Bradley Bozeman are still battling for the RG spot, so that could go back and forth for awhile and both are really good players. I'm a fan of Bozeman though, so I hope he wins it. Dominick Jackson has a ton of potential on the right side. Even though we lost 3 starters from last year's team, this line has a chance to be better and could be on par with the 2012 OL that featured three 1st Rd NFL draft picks.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
WR: Robert Foster/Calvin Ridley, Deionte Thompson
WR: ArDarius Stewart, Daylon Charlot/Cam Sims, Derek Kief
WR: Richard Mullaney/Chris Black
Anytime you lose a player like Amari Cooper, it's hard to be as good at a position as you were before. And Coop is one of the best to ever play for Alabama. Even so, I truly believe that this WR corp, in 2015, will be more talented across the board, and harder to stop. When a large majority of your passes go to one guy, even if that guy is as good as No. 9 was, you keep the group as a whole from living up to their potential. This season, there are at least 5 or 6 guys playing this position in Tuscaloosa that would start for almost any other SEC team. ArDarius Stewart will be the star of the group. Kiffin has pointed him out several times as the most talented guy we have, and Saban has praised him as well. He made a few plays last year, but didn't get the ball enough. Robert Foster is the other big name to be optimistic about. Richard Mullaney transferred in from Oregon State, where he was one of the best receivers in the Pac 12 last year. He's new here, but should provide a veteran presence and dependability. Chris Black should see a lot of time, and Cam Sims, who tore his ACL in the spring and was expected to miss the season, has already been practicing again and he might play sometime in September. He could be a star in the future as well. There are two true freshman who have broken into the rotation. Mainly Calvin Ridley, who was the top WR recruit in America coming out of high school this past spring. Ridley looks like the next Cooper. Daylon Charlot is another hot shot freshman who I expect to see this season, even if it's only at the end of blowouts. Everyone listed above will play this year, but another guy is Raheem Falkins. Falkins is a big target with good hands, but hasn't played much. Has flashed potential and it's about that time for him to show up, but maybe he's just buried on the depth chart now. It really is crazy how much talent we have at this position. People assume we lost everything with Cooper, but that's just cause he was a once in a generation player that you couldn't help but throw the ball to entirely too much. But we have at least 5 guys that have legit All-SEC potential and it only stands to reason that at least 1 or 2 of these guys will be big stars this year. This is the most talented group top to bottom in the SEC, in my opinion. Most wouldn't share this opinion at the moment cause there's no track record for most of these guys, but every last one of them is better than the best guy we had in 2007, DJ Hall. Think about that.
TE: O.J.Howard/Ty Flournoy-Smith, Michael Nysewander
TE: Dakota Ball, Hale Hentges
OJ Howard was the top TE prospect coming out of HS in 2013, and several times he has shown why. He's insanely big for a guy that runs as fast as he does, he has great hands, and he has recently been improving his blocking to become a complete player. I believe he has the talent to be as good as anyone in the country, but the problem for him has been a lack of opportunity. In his true freshman season, cause he wasn't great at blocking or running routes yet, and last year because we just didn't throw the ball to him very often. If Kiffin places more of a focus on getting him the ball from time to time, he could be an impact player, but I expect just an occasional big play here and there, as the ball will probably be spread around to the receivers more than OJ. Ty-Flournoy Smith is a great pass catching TE and could really help us alot too. Dakota Ball is becoming a good player, and is probably the best blocker of the bunch, and true freshman Hale Hentges has done well enough in fall practice to earn a spot in the rotation, though I'm not sure we'll actually see him this year.
DE: A'Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, D.J. Pettway
NG: Darren Lake/Daron Payne
DE: Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson, Da'Shawn Hand
Our defensive line is otherwordly. It's probably the best group we've had since 1992, and has a chance to be the best ever. Robinson, Allen, Lake, Reed, and Tomlinson all have All-SEC potential, and at least three of those guys have All-America potential. Daron Payne is a true freshman who has come into fall camp and played as good as Darren Lake, who is the starter in front of him. The coaches really love Payne, and some have said he is the next Marcel Dareus. DJ Pettway could start for 9 or 10 SEC schools as could probably Da'Shawn Hand, who is buried on the depth chart, but was the overall top DL recruit in America in 2014. We are seriously stacked at this position. 8 guys for 3 positions, and they are all studs. It doesn't get any better than this bunch in Tuscaloosa.
OLB: Dillon Lee, Rashaan Evans, Christian Miller
MLB: Reggie Ragland, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Walker Jones/Adonis Thomas
MLB: Reuben Foster, Keith Holcombe
OLB: Denzel Devall, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams
|Reggie Ragland with Big Al|
Everything I said about the DL group applies to the LB group as well. This will be one of the best groups in all of College Football. Reggie Ragland is the leader of the group and compares favorably to any of our recent stars at his spot, such as CJ Mosley, Dont'a Hightower, and Rolando McClain. Ragland can be a Butkus finalist, but he's not the biggest hitter on the team. That would go to Reuben Foster who has actually had to be coached not to tackle too hard, cause he kept hurting himself. The dude is just crazy and is probably gonna hurt someone this year. Devall is a steady veteran, Dillion Lee and Shaun Dion Hamilton can do it all, and we should have an improved pass rush from this level as well, with guys like Rashaan Evans, Ryan Anderson, Christian Miller, and Tim Williams, who are all great pass rushers. Over the past few seasons, there was always at least one weak link at LB or S and this is the first year that I feel comfortable that everyone we throw out there is an above average player and most can be star players. Hiring Tosh Lupoa is an improvement as well. Ryan Anderson said that he has learned more about playing outside linebacker from Coach Tosh this offseason than he had in the last 3 years.
CB: Cyrus Jones, Bradley Sylve, Maurice Smith
CB: Marlon Humphrey, Tony Brown/Minkah Fitzpatrick
S: Eddie Jackson, Ronnie Harrison, Shawn Burgess-Becker
S: Geno Smith, Jabriel Washington, Hootie Jones
Star: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tony Brown, Maurice Smith
The secondary has been the problem in almost every game we lost the past two seasons. Giving up big plays on the back end has killed us and everyone knows it. Last year, we struggled a lot with Bradley Sylve starting, and Tony Brown was a mixed bag of occasional greatness. This year, Marlon Humphrey has stepped up and taken the spot opposite Cyrus Jones and all reports on him are that he is ready to be a star. He outplayed a couple guys who have started before, has done that all fall, and A'Shawn Robinson said that he is "the baller" out there. I think we will see more INTs from this group than last year, and that also goes to other newcomers, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison. Fitzpatrick earned the praise of Saban almost constantly through August, and almost immediately won a starting job his first couple weeks on the team. He should be the next guy in the Dre Kirkpatrick, Dee Milliner mold. Harrison looks like a 3rd year starter already.
Having Eddie Jackson and Geno Smith at safety, I think, will help on the back end when it comes to big plays as well, because they both are former corners and have more speed than the guys playing the position in years past. Another reason for optimism with these guys is the fact that Nick Saban and Kirby Smart gave up control of the secondary and went and hired a secondary coach, Mel Tucker, who is highly respected at what he does. So far, it looks like a great move, as the players have responded well to him and say that he has already taught them alot and they feel like they are already a lot better than last year, due to his coaching. And the future is very bright here, as all the freshmen and sophomores at these spots were top recruits who are doing very well so far.
K: Adam Griffith
P: JK Scott
KR: Kenyan Drake/ArDarius Stewart
KR: Cyrus Jones/Chris Black
PR: Cyrus Jones, Chris Black, Richard Mullaney
JK Scott is so clearly the best at what he does, it's ridiculous. As a true freshman last year, he averaged over 48 yard per punt, which not only led CFB, but would have also led the NFL. He will be the best punter to ever wear crimson, and as much as we all hope to see him as little as possible, it will be fun to watch him punt a ball 70 yards several times this year. Adam Griffith has drawn the ire of alot of Tide fans over his first couple seasons. Everyone knows about the big field goals he has missed. But he was suffering from a back injury all last year and that is supposedly better now. He has hit several FGs in practice lately over 50 yards and they say he is doing good now. I'll wait and see.