Alabama Recruiting 2012: Who Could Start and Who Could Get Lost in the Mix?
National Signing Day is almost here, and now it's time to start thinking about where the new crimson jerseys will be playing on the field. Some are ready to contribute right now, but others are not.
This will be a look at which players could start, as in the ones that seem to be the most physically and mentally able to start. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, they will start.
Then again, it only takes one ugly hit to turn a benchwarmer into a starter.
There's also the other guys.
Not every committed player will see the field during game time this year, and some may never see it. Those are the ones that get lost in the mix, buried in the depth chart.
Here's a glimpse at what the signing class may be able to contribute this coming season.
T.J. Yeldon: Could Start
Running Back, 6'2", 215 lbs.
Yeldon has the frame to become a really, really big running back with speed to back it up, but he looks good already.
Jalston Fowler is a good backup running back, but if Eddie Lacy were to go down, it's unlikely that Fowler would become the starter. His style is a nice change of pace, but he has virtually no lateral movement; if the hole isn't right in front of him, he comes to a screeching halt.
Demetrius Hart is 5'9" and 190 lbs. He's not built to the specifications of an Alabama starting running back. Don't get me wrong, he'll be used in creative ways and will make big impacts, but he won't be toting the rock 20-30 times a game like the workhorse backs sometimes have to.
Lacy is the clear-cut starter for 2012, but Yeldon seems to be capable of fulfilling the role should the need arise.
He had over 4,000 rushing and over 1,000 receiving yards in his high school career, displaying his versatility.
He has both the muscle and the speed required for an Alabama running back. He can run between the tackles, find creases and dash to the outside as well.
Eddie Williams: Could Start
Safety/Wide Receiver, 6'4", 204 lbs.
If Eddie Williams ends up playing safety, he could possibly start. His physical abilities are superb for the position, but Nick Saban and Kirby Smart demand a lot from their defensive backs.
Their coverage schemes are incredibly complicated and a true freshman defensive back, no matter how talented, can spell trouble with a capital "T" for "Touchdown."
If the coaches decide to place Williams on offense as a wide receiver, he is very likely to start. Quarterback A.J. McCarron needs that big target that can jump over any defender and make a catch.
Duron Carter could fill that role, but with all the great things said about Williams as a receiver, he seems like the best candidate for the big target receiver role.
Williams could also fill an underrated role as a powerful blocking receiver, which has been lacking since Julio Jones. He loves to hit guys and packs quite a wallop.
Watch his one-handed grab in the first play in the video. 'Nuff said, right?
Landon Collins: Could Start
Safety, 6'1", 200 lbs.
Believe the hype about Landon Collins. He is the next Mark Barron.
His ability to be all over the field and his superb run-stopping support make him just what the Tide needs, and all he needs is a bit of experience.
He won't be ready to start against Michigan in the season opener, but later in the season he just might be capable of stepping up to the plate.
The team already has Robert Lester returning, and true freshman phenom Vinnie Sunseri seems to be highly capable of taking over for departed Mark Barron. Collins could start, but likely won't.
Travell Dixon: Could Start
Cornerback, 6'2", 200 lbs.
Travell Dixon is one amazing cornerback. That's all that needs to be said, but I'll say more.
He can play the run and defend the pass in equal measure. He can shuck blocks by wide receivers and hit ball carriers that seem well out of tackling range, and can also cover his man like glue and make bone-crunching hits that jar the ball loose.
He's a junior college transfer and played well there. The JUCO ranks may not be the SEC, but they are worlds beyond high school.
When you see his size, Dre Kirkpatrick immediately comes to mind, except that Dixon is heavier than Kirkpatrick and his 4.4 40-yard is faster as well.
With only two years of eligibility left, Dixon needs to learn Saban and Smart's system, and fast.
Not only could Dixon be a starter in a cornerback squad that is losing three very quality corners (Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie and Phelon Jones), but I will also go on record and say that he will start.
Reggie Ragland: Could Start
Middle Linebacker, 6'4", 245 lbs.
After watching Reggie Ragland's highlight video, I can hardly believe his instincts. If you thought you were looking at Rolando McClain or Dont'a Hightower in high school, you are not alone.
Scout has him listed as the best middle linebacker in the country, a reputation he's more than earned. Physically and mentally, he seems ready to start right now.
The Alabama linebacker corps, however, has the creamiest of crops waiting to step up. His main competition at middle linebacker are senior Nico Johnson and freshman Trey DePriest, but DePriest could very well be moved to left outside linebacker. Johnson will certainly be a starter, but as I said before, it only takes one hit to go down.
C.J. Mosley will be a starter should he recover from his leg injury suffered in the title game against LSU, but he's a coverage guy.
The team needs another run-stopping monster, and Ragland fits the bill. Already, he has an SEC-ready body.
Scout lists one of his weaknesses as "discipline," possibly referring to proneness to penalties. Under Nick Saban that stuff is straightened out faster than a private in the Marine Corps, so it's a non-issue.
Adam Griffith: Could Start
Kicker, 5'11", 175 lbs.
Oh, how the Alabama kicking woes turned full circle. After the debacle on Nov. 5, kicker Jeremy Shelley redeemed himself in the title game not once, but five times.
He's one accurate kicker, to be sure. Not only did he have more extra points made than Leigh Tiffin did in 2009, but he had a better percentage at 96.3 percent to Tiffin's 91.3 percent.
His only problem is leg strength. He doesn't have it.
Cade Foster was supposed to be that answer, and he looked promising in 2010. He was my favorite player on the team that year.
Unfortunately, he ended the 2011 season with only five touchbacks on kickoffs, good for dead last in the SEC, and went two for nine on field goals.
Adam Griffith looks to fix all that.
Scout's Chris Sailer said this about him:
Adam may be the most talented kicker that I have ever seen. He has big time leg and hits an absolutely huge ball. His field goals come off his foot like a rocket. His kickoffs are tops in the nation. Adam hit one wind-aided kickoff 90 plus yards with 4.40 second hang time. No one can match his talent.
Griffith will start from Day 1 on kickoffs and some field goals, but Shelley, the true national championship MVP, will still push him for the short field goal and extra point duties.
Lost in the Mix
Every other prospect on the commitment list is likely get lost in the mix in the 2012 season with little to no playing time, special teams aside.
These players may get their shot one day, but their chances of getting the opportunity to contribute heavily during games are slim.
Here are a few players that I consider future stars who are certain to ride the bench for now (though there is nothing wrong with that).
Alec Morris, Quarterback, 6'3, 235 lbs.
The Tide already has A.J. McCarron on a hotstreak, and Phillip Sims is chomping at the bit to get his chance. Morris mopped up some of the best high school competition in the country this past year in Texas and may be a star someday, but a red shirt is inbound.
Kurt Freitag, Tight End, 6'3", 245 lbs.
Freitag just might be my favorite recruit on the roster, but Alabama tight ends may have the most underrated and demanding jobs on the team. Michael Williams and Harrison Jones look to have the two tight end positions on lockdown, barring injury.
Denzel Devall, Inside Linebacker, 6'2, 240 lbs.
Devall isn't a familiar name for many folks, but only because Reggie Ragland is on everyone's lips. He is a powerful and smart linebacker and will play on the inside one day, of that I'm certain. He may not get a red shirt, as Nick Saban will likely play him on special teams, but he's a bench-bound star in the making.