Here’s a look at the incoming freshmen and transfer signees on the 2011 Alabama football team, and a quick assessment of which will and won’t play this upcoming season:
Will definitely play
Name Pos Ht Wt 40time NARCAS rating
1. Trey DePriest LB 6-2 220 4.5 10.0
By enrolling early and going through spring practice, DePriest got a head start. But not only did he get a head start, he showed physicality usually present only in an upperclassman. DePriest wiggled his way into the playing rotation at A-Day, and even though Alabama didn’t really need an extra inside linebacker to step up, DePriest did. He figures to be a fixture on special teams and could also play strongside linebacker if Jerrell Harris falters again.
2. Jesse Williams DT 6-5 340 5.0 10.0
Williams, a junior college transfer, finished the spring as Josh Chapman’s top backup. With Kerry Murphy’s career over thanks to recurring knee trouble, Williams needs only to fend off pass-rush specialist Nick Gentry to get a lot of playing time. Williams made good use of the time off in the summer to get bigger and stronger, and his quickness gives him a facet to his game that Alabama’s prior big man in the middle, Terrence Cody, lacked.
3. Quinton Dial DL 6-6 320 4.8 10.0
Dial was thought to be an option at nosetackle when he signed; after seeing him at A-Day, he looks more like the second coming of Eric Curry: Tall and lean, fast and strong. Dial appears to be Alabama’s first tackle/end off the bench behind projected starters Damion Square and Ed Stinson, but he’s more versatile than Stinson and will challenge for the starting job the entire season.
4. Duron Carter WR 6-4 210 4.5 9.9
A late addition to the class, there is no doubt Carter will be part of the playing rotation, especially with Darius Hanks out at the start of the year. Carter probably isn’t Julio Jones, but he’s good enough (and especially tall and physical enough) to court playing time on an offense that desperately needs an aerial playmaker.
Will almost certainly play
5. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix S 6-2 195 4.4 10.0
Clinton-Dix was the top-rated player in Alabama’s class, and by that fact alone, it would be a huge upset if he didn’t play. Unfortunately for Clinton-Dix, Alabama has two first-team all-SEC safeties ahead of him, and the reserves include a senior (Will Lowery) and Jarrick Williams, who had a coming-out party of sorts this spring. Still, Clinton-Dix has the frame to be another Mark Barron, except with better pure speed and coverage ability. Alabama will find plenty of special-teams action for Clinton-Dix, and don’t be surprised to see him play quite a bit at safety, especially against lesser opponents.
Will probably play
6. Vinnie Sunseri LB 5-11 210 4.6 9.5
Sunseri had a solid spring after coming in early. Signed as a linebacker, he played mostly in the secondary. He’s not a threat to grab a starting position there – and will likely be slotted behind Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix shortly after the beginning of fall camp – but he could get in the mix at strongside linebacker, where senior Jerrell Harris has struggled so far in game action. Sunseri’s primary contributions in 2011 will likely come from special teams.
On the bubble
7. Bradley Sylve WR 5-9 170 4.3 9.8
Alabama doesn’t necessarily need another smaller receiver to play this year, but with the injury to Dee Hart and the suspensions of Keiwone Malone and Darius Hanks, Sylve could slide into one of several different roles: slot receiver, kick returner or reserve split end. Sylve’s speed is nearly unmatched on the current team and his high school highlight films display a player who knows how to behave on special teams.
8. Xzavier Dickson DE 6-4 250 4.6 10.0
The suspension of Darrington Sentimore certainly doesn’t hurt Dickson’s chances to get early playing time. However, being a difference-maker from day one on an SEC defensive line is tough. Dickson would seem to need to add a bit of weight unless he’s going to concentrate on being a pass-rush specialist much the way Courtney Upshaw functioned during his true freshman season.
9. LaMichael Fanning DL 6-6 285 5.0 10.0
We would have pegged Fanning for a certain redshirt three months ago, but reports from around the team this summer say Fanning has arrived in a bad humor. Given that both Ed Stinson and Damion Square are a bit light for their respective positions, and Fanning has a nearly ideal build for a 3-4 defensive tackle/end, no one would stand to benefit more from Darrington Sentimore’s suspension than he.
10. Brent Calloway LB 6-2 220 4.6 9.8
Calloway is on the bubble – but not at linebacker, where most thought he’d play from day one. Instead, Calloway could end up playing running back, his preferred position, thanks to an injury to Dee Hart and the defections of Corey Grant and Demetrius Goode. His chance at playing time gets even better if Eddie Lacy is not ready to go at the beginning of the year.
Will probably redshirt
11. Cyrus Kouandjio OT 6-7 310 4.9 10.0
This may be somewhat of an upset pick, especially given the tragedy that befell Aaron Douglas, but Kouandjio isn’t even as polished as his older brother was prior to arrival last year. Cyrus Kouandjio needs a redshirt year to refine his conditioning and be coached up on his footwork, but the talent is definitely there. If Alabama can’t find a left tackle out of Barrett Jones, Arie Kouandjio, Tyler Love or Alfred McCullough, though, Cyrus’ path to playing time just got a lot shorter.
12. Jeoffrey Pagan DE 6-4 270 4.6 9.9
There is no denying Pagan’s immense talent, but he has a knee injury that still isn’t completely 100 percent and there may be too many players in front of him. There’s no reason to risk it unless Pagan lights up fall camp and jumps over several veterans in his path.
13. Marvin Shinn WR 6-3 175 4.5 9.8
Until the signing of Duron Carter, both Marvin Shinn and Danny Woodson Jr. were threats to play immediately. Now, they can take their time getting to the field. Shinn in particular needs to add weight to his spindly frame, but big things are expected of him.
14. Danny Woodson Jr. WR 6-2 210 4.6 9.6
Like Shinn, Woodson can now afford to develop at his own pace.
15. Christion Jones CB 5-11 180 4.5 9.5
There might be room for one more cornerback in Alabama’s playing rotation this fall, but don’t bet on it. Alabama has five players there, and the Crimson Tide doesn’t typically go much deeper at the cornerback position under Nick Saban. Jones needs to bulk up a bit and learn technique, but he’ll have plenty of time and the best teacher possible for the task.
16. Isaac Luatua OL 6-2 295 5.0 9.9
Luatua gives Alabama options at both guard and center, but guard is a logjam at the moment. There is a ray of light for Luatua at center, however, where Kellen Williams and Chad Lindsey wrestled for the backup’s job all spring. Neither did anything to seize it, though. The first few days of camp will be critical for Luatua in regards to his chances to play in 2011.
17. Jabriel Washington CB 5-10 165 4.4 9.8
Washington could start out at either wide receiver or cornerback. Either way, he’s most likely to redshirt. Alabama has more polished players at receiver and plenty of options at cornerback.
18. D.J. Pettway DE 6-2 250 4.9 9.7
Pettway’s build is reminiscent of either Wallace Gilberry, or Damion Square when the latter first came to campus. Pettway’s star rose quickly late in the recruiting process, but his path is blocked by several other players at the moment. He would seem to benefit from a redshirt year.
19. Ryan Kelly OL 6-4 285 5.3 9.7
Like Isaac Luatua, Kelly is a prospect at both guard and center. Unlike Luatua, Kelly injured a knee his senior year and is fresh off rehab.
20. Malcolm Faciane TE 6-6 265 4.8 9.7
Faciane is another signee coming off knee surgery. Given Alabama is one H-back short of a full depth chart at the moment, Faciane has a better chance of seeing the field by default. But it would be odd to see Alabama play six tight ends in 2011, which is what would have to happen to get Faciane out there.
Won’t play/will redshirt
21. Phillip Ely QB 6-1 185 4.6 9.4
With Phillip Sims, Blake Sims and A.J. McCarron all in front of him, don’t expect Ely to play unless massive injuries take hold. Ely looked overmatched at A-Day, although practice observers say he had a good spring otherwise.
22. Shannon Brown LB 6-1 235 4.6 9.8
Brown failed to qualify and is headed elsewhere.
23. Dee Hart RB 5-9 180 4.4 9.8
Hart finished spring practice third on the depth chart and the top candidate to take over both kickoff returns and punt returns. Then he hurt a knee. Barring a medical miracle, he’ll miss the entire 2011 season and will need to rehab fervently to prevent a fall-off in his speed and agility. Hart showed plenty of flashes this spring, but perhaps didn’t achieve quite the level of dominance many recruiting services had predicted. For a scatback who relies on speed and shiftiness above all else, a knee injury could be devastating.
24. Aaron Douglas OL 6-5 290 5.0 10.0
By now, Douglas’ story is well-known. He passed away over the summer following his attendance at a party. Drugs were found in his system post-mortem, and the fresh start Douglas was seeking came to a tragic and abrupt end. He was expected to compete for the starting left tackle job in fall camp, and many thought it was just a matter of time before he captured it.