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Which freshmen will play?


By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief


Picking which freshmen will seeing time in 2013 even before fall camp opens is a risky endeavor, but here’s an early look at the 2012-2013 signing class and where we project them as the 2013 season unfolds.


Will definitely play

Name                                         Pos     Ht      Wt      40time NARCAS rating

1. O.J. Howard                         TE     6-5     227      4.6         9.8

Howard went through spring practice with the team and came out the No. 2 H-back behind Harrison Jones. Howard’s flexibility as a receiver fills a niche that Alabama doesn’t otherwise have on the 2013 team. He’ll line up at receiver or H-back at various times this year and fill roles on special teams.


Will probably play

Name                                          Pos     Ht      Wt       40time NARCAS rating

2. Derrick Henry                     RB     6-3     240       4.6         10.0

Henry was slated to be on the “definitely play” list before sustaining an injury late in spring camp. It’s hard to say whether Henry would have won the third-team running back job outright – Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart, two veterans who have proven themselves at the position, are also returning from injury – but Henry was clearly too good to redshirt. An injury may change things, but it’s a good bet Alabama fans will see Henry at running back and on special teams in 2013.


3. Raheem Falkins                WR     6-4     200       4.5          10.0

Falkins was another early entrant, and he put his time in the spring to good use. Falkins didn’t have the hype Robert Foster enjoyed, but he looked like a veteran in spring drills and easily worked his way in amongst the veterans at the position. There would seem to be room for either Falkins or Foster to play in 2013, but perhaps not both. Falkins’ decision to come to Alabama early, in addition to the way he impressed onlookers and coaches alike this spring, give him the edge at the moment.


4. Leon Brown                        OL      6-7     310         5.5             9.9

Brown finished the spring running second-team at right tackle and pushing starter Austin Shephard for the job. Then word leaked out in early summer that Brown might have run afoul of team rules. Alabama coaches haven’t said anything on the matter publicly, but presuming Brown reports back to campus in good standing for fall workouts, he’ll play. He started slowly this spring before coming on late, and his athleticism was readily apparent. But the fact Alabama has taken a commitment from another JUCO offensive lineman for next season might be telling.


5. Reuben Foster                   LB      6-2     245        4.5             10.0

Foster falls under the “too good to sit” line, meaning a redshirt year would be wasted if the staff believes he would go to the NFL Draft a year early anyway. The other factor pushing Foster’s chances forward are that, aside from perhaps Reggie Ragland, Alabama has no other true middle linebacker on the roster behind Trey DePriest. Tana Patrick will play a good bit as a fifth-year senior in good standing, but Patrick has seemed to have the most fortune when lined up outside.


6. Cole Mazza                         LS       6-2     235         5.0              *.*

It’s hard to imagine Alabama putting a long snapper on scholarship, then sitting him. But walk-on senior M.K. Taylor had a good spring, and it’s not a guarantee that Mazza will unseat him in 2013. We won’t know for certain until Mazza shows up on campus and either confirms his talent or turns out to be a myth, but expect him to play in 2013 if he’s at least as good as Taylor.


7. A’Shawn Robinson           DL      6-5    310          5.1             10.0

We’re going to go out on a limb here considering Robinson plays in the trenches and wasn’t on campus for spring drills, but a talent like his rarely sits a year – particularly with Alabama needing an extra body in the interior rotation. If Robinson is assigned to nosetackle, it becomes a near certainty that he’ll see action. There seems to be a dropoff between the second- and third-team nosetackle slots, and Robinson would fit right in, plus give Alabama added depth when the Crimson Tide goes to a four-man front.


On the bubble

Name                                           Pos     Ht      Wt       40time      NARCAS rating

8. Robert Foster                      WR     6-2     180        4.5             10.0

Foster still has academic work left to do and might not even make it to Tuscaloosa. If he does, it will be on the virtual eve of training camp, and not only does he have a host of talented veterans to contend with for playing time, but also fellow freshman Raheem Falkins. If he does make it to town, he might join the other Foster in the “too good to sit” line, but it would remain to be seen how much of an impact (injuries notwithstanding) that he could make given the talent already onhand.


9. Jonathan Allen                    DE      6-3      240       4.5              10.0

Whether Allen plays or not could be decided by such names as Tana Patrick and Anthony Orr in the final analysis. Allen is considered a pure end/Jack prospect, perhaps the most textbook interpretation of the position that Alabama has recruited under Saban. However, the same question arises with Allen that does with Robert Foster – how much of an impact can he make given that Denzel Devall, Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard all vie for time at the position? Tana Patrick can also play outside, as can Ryan Anderson, and even little-used veteran Anthony Orr started for one of the two teams at A-Day.


10. Brandon Hill                       OL       6-7      370      5.5                9.6

Hill falls into this category solely based on the fact that he went through spring practice with the team. Right now, he’s the fifth guard, and would certainly redshirt based on that, but he also got some work at tackle, and Leon Brown’s status isn’t 100 percent known at this point. Early entrants (aside from quarterbacks) typically play for Saban, so this one might not be sorted out until fall camp is over. Hill’s biggest competition for time at the moment is Isaac Luatua.


Will probably redshirt

Name                                              Pos     Ht      Wt     40time         NARCAS rating

11. Darius Paige                           DL     6-4     300      4.9               10.0

Paige has the best chance of any of the names in this category to elevate himself into playing time. He’s physically ready now, and is at a position of need. It basically boils down to Paige or A’Shawn Robinson, and Robinson gets the early edge simply because he was the higher-rated prospect coming in. Anything is possible, though, once fall camp gets going.


12. Altee Tenpenny                     RB      6-0     210      4.5              10.0

With the depth chart being what it is, and Derrick Henry getting a jump on matters, Altee Tenpenny is likely headed for a redshirt season. It’s hard to imagine Alabama playing six running backs in 2013 if injuries are kept at bay.


13. Tyren Jones                            RB      5-9     200      4.4              10.0

See above. Although Jones might have a slightly better chance to see the field if Alabama considers him to back up Dee Hart in a scatback role.


14. Tim Williams                          DE      6-3     230      4.6              9.9

Williams is sort of a mystery man; he didn’t get much recruiting hype even though he was practically in LSU’s back yard. But word from Tuscaloosa is that Alabama considers him an early player. At 230 pounds, his future is probably linebacker over defensive end, and if it’s not, then Williams will absolutely have to redshirt to put on weight.


15. Alvin Kamara                          RB      5-9     175        4.4              9.9

Kamara could quickly get into a higher category depending on his kick-return skills. As a running back, he’s almost certain to redshirt given the talent in front of him.


16. Dee Liner                                   DL     6-2     275       4.9               9.9

Liner’s problem isn’t necessarily with the talent on campus, but instead with the other two true freshmen tackles coming in with him. Liner is a tweener in Alabama’s scheme that will probably need a year to get ready to play inside. It will be interesting to watch the competition between Liner, Robinson and Paige.


17. Maurice Smith                         CB      6-0     180      4.5                9.9

At least one of the four cornerback signees definitely has a chance to garner early playing time. Alabama’s established players did well overall this spring, and that’s without the injured John Fulton getting much work, but Alabama hasn’t seen Jabriel Washington or Bradley Sylve take a huge step forward and there could be an opening for a true freshman as a result. Of the three, Smith comes with the greatest accolades so far.


18. Anthony Averett                      CB     5-11     180     4.4                 9.9

Averett doesn’t quite have Smith’s physicality, but he’s considered a good cover corner with elite speed.


19. Jonathan Cook                         CB      6-0      180     4.5                 9.5

Cook was somewhat of a surprise to qualify. Now that he has, the question is how much (if any) he’ll play in 2013.


20. Eddie Jackson                          CB      6-2       185     4.4                9.7

There are two questions for Jackson – one, whether he’ll stay at corner or go to safety; two, whether he’ll play as a true freshman. The safety depth chart is decidedly more crowded than at corner, especially concerning players with a legit shot at playing time. Jackson is the most physical of the cornerback signees and could end up moving as a result.


21. ArDarius Stewart                    WR      6-1       190     4.5               9.8

Stewart’s chances go up slightly if Robert Foster doesn’t qualify. But if Foster does, Stewart is almost certain to redshirt, given Raheem Falkins’ contributions in the spring.


22. Cooper Bateman                      QB       6-3      210     4.6              10.0

Despite going through spring practice, Bateman is almost a sure redshirt. Bateman was expected to get a jump on Alec Morris for the third-string position, but if anything, Morris established distance between himself and the three true freshman competing against him. Bateman definitely looked overwhelmed in the spring, and should probably concern himself with learning the offense and studying under A.J. McCarron’s wing rather than trying to get on the field for mop-up duty in 2013.


23. Parker McLeod                         QB       6-2      200     4.9                9.4

McLeod acquitted himself well in the spring, as both he and walk-on Luke Del Rio showed there wasn’t as much difference between them and Bateman as originally thought. Regardless, McLeod and Del Rio are in the same boat as Bateman now. Each stands little chance of playing provided McCarron, Blake Sims and Morris stay upright this fall.


24. Grant Hill                                     OL       6-6      300      5.2              9.6

There’s a lot to like about Hill’s chances to eventually start or contribute, but the depth chart is pretty full at the moment and Hill is just now getting to campus.


25. Walker Jones                              LB        6-2       230      4.7               9.5

The brother of Barrett and Harrison Jones, Walker probably has the longest path to playing time simply because of his build and his chosen position. He figures to be behind most of the other signees at linebacker, and would need to add weight to move to defensive end or tight end..


Will redshirt/won’t play

Name                                                      Pos     Ht          Wt       40time     NARCAS rating

26. Bradley Bozeman                         OL    6-5         305         5.5               9.6

Bozeman is scheduled to grayshirt, although that could theoretically change if either Robert Foster fails to qualify or Leon Brown’s status becomes cloudier. As it stands, Bozeman will join the team in January.


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