Alabama Football: A Look at the Players Replacing Crimson Tide's First-Rounders
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In a scene that's seemingly on repeat for college football fans, Alabama was once again the story during last week’s NFL draft after having four former Crimson Tide stars drafted in the first round for the second consecutive season.
Most coaches would shudder at the thought of replacing that amount of talent, but Nick Saban is ready to usher in the next wave of talented recruits waiting for their turn in the spotlight.
Still, filling the shoes for the likes of Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dont’a Hightower is easier said than done.
So how will the players stepping up for these departed All-Americans fare?
Here's a look at the new faces who will take over for the Crimson Tide’s first-round draft picks.
Lacy will get first crack at a position that has seen his last two predecessors become first-round picks.
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Of all the players on this list, Lacy figures to have the most seamless transition even though taking over for Richardson still figures to be a tall task.
Lacy has run for more than 1,000 yards while averaging more than seven yards per carry and has scored 13 touchdowns during his first two years at the Capstone in a backup role.
Given Alabama’s penchant to have a stable of running backs capable of carrying an offense, expect Lacy to get help from junior Jalston Fowler and A-Day MVP and true freshman T.J. Yeldon.
However, Lacy has shown plenty of talent and the ability of being a worthy successor to Richardson in 2012.
Belue has a leg up on John Fulton for the spot occupied last season by Dre Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick was a valuable part of the nation’s top secondary last season, and his replacement figures to be a player that has been on campus for only four months.
Belue has wasted little time in making a first impression—with a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown in his first scrimmage of spring practice.
He will continue to battle junior John Fulton for the job, but the 5’11”, 179-pounder has emerged as the favorite in the battle to start opposite Dee Milliner.
The JUCO transfer is also heavily in the mix for punt-return duties.
DePriest was one of the major coups for Nick Saban during the 2011 recruiting cycle.
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In Alabama’s 3-4 scheme, having skilled linebackers capable of stuffing the run and covering running backs and tight ends is essential.
DePriest was able to get his feet wet last season—making an appearance in all 13 games and recording 25 tackles as Hightower’s understudy as a true freshman.
The 6’2, 242-pounder was one the nation’s top prep linebackers in 2010, and while light on experience, the Ohio native is another talented athlete whom Saban will groom to mature on the field in a hurry.
Hightower's leadership will be missed, but DePriest will try to build on a solid freshman campaign with his role set to increase in importance this fall.
Sunseri emerged as a ball-hawking playmaker during spring practice.
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Barron was arguably the engine that made sure Alabama’s record-setting defensive unit ran smoothly, and regardless of who takes his place in the lineup, it's unlikely to duplicate his production or proficiency for being the top safety in the country.
However, Sunseri has proven to be a playmaker—as evidenced by the two turnovers he caused in the A-Day game, including a 21-yard fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown to seal his team’s victory.
Sunseri logged valuable minutes last season as a true freshman last season and has a leg up on rising sophomore Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix for the right to line up alongside Robert Lester.
Given the valuable experience he gained in the latter stages of last season and his production during spring practice, Sunseri will be counted on heavily to maintain the Crimson Tide's lofty standards on defense this season.