After bringing home another top-ranked recruiting class, Saban is facing some tough decisions for the 2012 season, as usual.
On the surface, it seems simple: Who will play and who will redshirt? It isn't at all that simple. If he were making the decision based on talent, every freshman that comes to the Capstone would be a possible starter.
Saban has many more traits to consider, but I like to use the "Three S's:"
1) Size: Do they have the mass to take SEC hits without serious injury?
2) Skill: Do they bring more than talent to the field?
3) Sensitivity: Could they be more of a liability than an asset if a play breaks down?
Saban isn't going to risk severe injury just to get a WR on the field six games earlier than he's ready.
Though the The Tide has all the tools in place to put together a dark-horse championship run in 2012, let's take a look at the freshmen that could move them from dark-horse candidate to favorite.
T.J. Yeldon sits low on this list for a couple of reasons.
1. Lacy and Fowler have earned their way to being the 2012 RB tandem.
2. It's Alabama; the RB depth is anything but lacking.
However, should he prove himself in practice, Yeldon can earn a spot on the field. Saban puts his best on the field, and Yeldon could work his way into the rotation quite early if he so desired.
I know that Mark Ingram was a 3-star recruit simply because he was underrated. What if Yeldon is an underrated 5-star?
If Yeldon listens and applies himself, he could be a contributor in many ways. (Especially if Doug Nussmeier wants to utilize the fullback position.)
Landon Collins is the headliner for this class, at least before the kids take the field and earn their true titles over the next few years.
He could be an impact player, but it's unlikely. One of the things his mom didn't like about Alabama (via MomsTeam.com) was the staff's desire to redshirt him and play him at nickelback instead of safety.
The reason he makes this list is his due to his personal strength and maturity (via ESPN.com). His work ethic and leadership capabilities could have him on-field by the Missouri game.
At 6'0" and 202 pounds, size will not be the limiting factor for Collins.
Overall, I expect to see him in 2013, but the possibility of his being on the field in 2012 is not lost on me at all. He's one of the shortest "long shots" I've seen in a while.
Since the nickelback isn't considered a starter (it's a third CB used primarily in passing situations), he could see some time in third-and-long packages.
It's really up to him to prove on the practice field that burning his redshirt would benefit the Tide.
Eddie Williams is tabbed as a WR at this point. If he is to make an impact as a freshman, that is likely the position that he would make it.
Of all the positions, it requires the least amount of adjustment. At 6'3" and 204 pounds, he's got the size to take the tackles and keep making plays.
His downside is that he was able to outperform most of his competition in high school. He'll have to deal with some culture shock as he learns that he's not as far above average as he used to be.
If he responds well to that, look for his work ethic to bring him back to top-tier performances sooner rather than later.
Amari Cooper and Chris Black enter the season battling for the title of best-in-class WR. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "Competition breeds excellence."
Nothing pushes a competitor over the edge of greatness better than the threat of a peer doing it first.
At 6'1" and 185 pounds, size will not be the issue for Cooper. Neither will positional needs at Alabama.
Alabama is being flooded with recruits seeking this position, and the Tide has a major player gaining eligibility this year in Duron Carter.
At this point, the sky's the limit for anyone sporting the "WR" tag in 2012.
Black is a part of the "flood" of WR's arriving at the Capstone for the 2012 season.
Black is a bit smaller than Amari Cooper, coming in at 5'11" and 175 pounds. That should translate to plenty of quickness on the field.
Quickness means separation, and separation means long receptions. As a possible impact freshman, he is near the top of my list because of his ability to fill a huge hole at the Capstone.
His competition with Amari Cooper may end up landing them both on the field in 2012. Wouldn't that be a sight for sore eyes?
Adam Griffith is almost a "lock" for making an immediate impact.
At 174 pounds, he is a question mark for making a tackle if called to do so. The lighter side of that is that his leg should give the gunners more than enough time to elicit a fair catch.
Jeremy Shelley is our kicker, and I'd hate to see his BCS title game performance be his last. Adam Griffith may feel differently, or he may be happy with kicking off and punting.
Even if it's "just" kicking off, Griffith's immediate impact will be highly appreciated.