Which freshmen will play?
By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Here’s a look at the incoming freshmen and transfer signees on the 2012 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. Deion Belue CB 6-0 165 4.4 9.8
Belue, a junior college transfer, has made a fast rise up depth charts and is likely a starter at the moment. Moreover, Alabama rarely signs junior college players to have them sit on the bench. Belue is also a strong special-teams player and will get plenty of opportunities there as well as in the defensive backfield.
2. T.J. Yeldon RB 6-2 215 4.5 9.8
Yeldon finished the spring as Eddie Lacy’s backup, and given that Lacy’s workload will have to be monitored thanks to recurring turf toe, Yeldon figures to be in line for 5-10 carries per game.
3. Amari Cooper WR 6-1 180 4.4 9.9
Cooper really made a name for himself in high school all-star games following his senior season, then continued to look strong in his first camp at Alabama. Alabama needs a couple of young receivers to step up this fall and fill in for three departed senior starters and Cooper has both the size and the route-running ability to do it.
Will probably play
4. Travell Dixon CB 6-2 200 4.4 10.0
Dixon came to Alabama more highly rated than did Belue, but hasn’t been as quick to pick up the defense. Still, he’s a junior college player, so a redshirt would be an unlikely proposition at best. It’s more likely that Dixon will be a late-game reserve and special-teams contributor in 2012.
5. Denzel Devall LB 6-2 240 4.6 9.9
Depth at inside linebacker isn’t the best, and Alabama will need at least one of the incoming freshmen to be able to step into a reserve role, especially if Tana Patrick moves to SLB. Devall appears to be the most physically ready of the bunch to do that, and his size and speed would prove valuable on special teams.
6. Adam Griffith PK 5-9 165 *.* *.*
This would figure to be a no-brainer had college football not moved up its kickoff line to the 35 this year, putting the goal line well within range of Cade Foster’s leg. Griffith still figures to get a shot at being Alabama’s long kicker thanks to Foster’s struggles in that role, but with Jeremy Shelley a senior and reliable from inside 40 yards, it’s questionable whether Griffith would win the full kicking role outright.
On the bubble
7. Landon Collins S 6-1 210 4.4 10.0
There’s no doubting Collins’ ability, but there is a bit of a logjam at his position. Robert Lester and Vinnie Sunseri appear to have the safety slots wrapped up, and Alabama has good depth with Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams. Still, the likelihood Collins is on campus for five years is slim at best, so there’s little downside to at least inserting him on special teams.
8. Eddie Williams WR 6-4 210 4.5 10.0
Alabama needs size from somewhere at wideout, and Williams is really the only big option outside of Marvin Shinn and Danny Woodson Jr. Williams, though, is plenty raw, and he may yet move to defense at some point. Like Collins, Williams is unlikely to last a five-year stretch in Tuscaloosa, so don’t be surprised to see him on special teams.
9. Cyrus Jones WR 5-10 180 4.4 10.0
Jones is an electrifying return man, and with Alabama needing weapons in its kick and punt return game, look for Jones to get every opportunity to lock down a job in camp. As a receiver, he figures to be middle of the pack at the moment, but could still find a role as a slot receiver.
10. Darren Lake DL 6-3 330 4.9 10.0
Lake would probably benefit the most of the names listed so far by redshirting, but he’s at a position lacking depth. Jesse Williams is just now moving to the nosetackle position, and Brandon Ivory hasn’t quite reached sufficient consistency level yet. Lake could therefore sneak into the mix, particularly in goal-line work or in short-yardage situations.
11. Ryan Anderson DE 6-2 245 4.6 9.9
Anderson looks like a future star at Jack linebacker, but Alabama has decent depth there with Adrian Hubbard, Xzavier Dickson and Anthony Orr available. Still, Anderson could make a dent on special teams and as a reserve, especially if the coaches fear they wouldn’t be able to keep him around five years.
12. Alec Morris QB 6-3 230 4.7 9.7
When Phillip Sims decided to transfer following spring practice, it opened up the backup quarterback position. Phillip Ely showed improvement in the spring, but his arm strength on medium-range throws is lacking. Blake Sims has been moved primarily to quarterback, but his style of play doesn’t fit Alabama’s preferred game plan. Morris arrived on campus wowing observers with his arm strength and technique, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility to find him taking snaps in 2012, particularly if A.J. McCarron was lost for any substantial length of time.
13. Dillon Lee LB 6-4 240 4.6 9.6
If Denzel Devall doesn’t play, it will likely be because Dillon Lee beat him out for a job in fall camp. Lee went through spring practice with the team and has shown good versatility as both an outside and inside linebacker. He’s not the athlete Devall is, but he’s more than adequate to play on special teams as a freshman and play late in games as a reserve.
Will probably redshirt
14. Tyler Hayes LB 6-2 220 4.5 10.0
There’s no doubting Hayes’ athletic ability, but he’s smaller than his freshman cohorts at linebacker and needs to add size. Still, his hitting ability is substantial and he’s another that could have early value on special teams.
15. Geno Smith CB 5-11 170 4.4 10.0
It’s a numbers game for Smith, who arrives at a position already containing several holdovers and two JUCO signees. Look for him to make his impact felt in future years.
16. Brandon Greene OL 6-7 300 5.0 10.0
Greene looks ready to play now, but Alabama would likely prefer to redshirt him, which is the smart play for just about any true freshman left tackle. If Arie Kouandjio continues to recover from injury, there won’t be much of a need to expose Greene to SEC play as a first-year player.
17. Dalvin Tomlinson DL 6-3 275 5.0 10.0
Tomlinson needs to add weight to play strongside end and occasional tackle, essentially Damion Square’s position. Given that Alabama has good numbers at that spot at the moment, there’s no need to rush Tomlinson’s development.
18. Reggie Ragland LB 6-4 240 4.6 9.9
Ragland may be closer to being on the bubble than we give him credit for, but it’s hard to imagine Alabama playing all three of its inside linebacker signees this year. Ragland could also get a look at outside linebacker, and would almost certainly need a redshirt if he moves there.
19. Chris Black WR 5-11 170 4.4 9.9
Black was in the mix for playing time at the start of camp, but an early shoulder injury probably means he’ll be redshirted in 2012.
20. Kenyan Drake RB 6-1 190 4.4 9.9
With Blake Sims moving back to quarterback and Jalston Fowler possibly moving to H-back, Drake could find his way to the field in 2012, especially if Eddie Lacy has any further complications. But if Lacy stays healthy, T.J. Yeldon proves to be a capable backup and Alabama can get enough snaps from some combination of Dee Hart, Sims and Fowler at tailback, Drake is a good bet to redshirt and bulk up for 2013.
21. Korren Kirven DL 6-4 270 4.9 9.9
Kirven will need some conditioning work before he’s ready to take on a primary role in the defense. He was recruited as a tackle/end, but may move full-time to the interior depending on his ending size.
22. Kurt Freitag TE 6-3 240 4.7 9.8
Freitag may be another that is actually on the bubble, but for Freitag it depends mostly not on his actions, but the actions of others. Alabama needs to replace Brad Smelley at H-back, and doesn’t have a true H-back on the team at the moment. Brent Calloway and Jalston Fowler are converted running backs, while Harrison Jones is a tight end. Freitag is the perfect size for the position and could find his way to the field in 2012, but if either Calloway or Fowler continues to develop, he’ll likely redshirt to get a year of conditioning under his belt.
23. Alphonse Taylor OL/DL 6-5 340 5.3 9.8
Taylor’s final position has yet to be determined. He could either play offensive tackle, guard or nosetackle depending on how the depth situation shakes out. For now, he’s on offense, and probably a bit behind others at his position.
24. Dakota Ball DL 6-2 290 5.0 9.7
Ball is a pure nosetackle, but with Darren Lake ahead of him and two or three veterans also in the mix, it would be a surprise to see Ball contribute in 2012.
Won’t play/will redshirt
25. Caleb Gulledge OL/DL 6-5 275 5.0 9.5
Gulledge looks to be the only sure-fire redshirt of the players who reported. He needs to bulk up if he stays at offensive tackle.
26. Brandon Hill OL 6-7 350 5.5 9.6
Hill did not qualify and will attend prep school in 2012.
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