Alabama Football: 5 Tiders in Most Need of Development During the Offseason
There are holes to fill on the Alabama squad in 2012. There will be new starters and new backups all over the field. This is the collateral damage associated with winning national championships.
National championships help in a lot of aspects of the game, such as recruiting and player confidence. However, the success also carries over to the NFL draft.
The NFL draft repeatedly sucks third-year talent from the Alabama bench, yet gives Saban the leverage to recruit talent that can replace the missing pieces.
Each year, there are some question marks taking the field for the Tide. Dedication and hard work allow the coaching staff to develop them into lethal squads of crystal miners.
Let's take a look at the kids that need to work the hardest.
*These slides all contain starters that will need to step up. The depth chart used was from Rivals.com (last updated on 7/1/12)
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Cyrus Kouandjio is the sophomore OT that will be lining up with two juniors and two seniors to form what could be the most formidable offensive line in the nation in 2012.
This will depend on Kouandjio's offseason development. He played in the eight games he was healthy for in 2011, then suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee.
He began spring practice without medical limitation, which was good news. However, he needs to spend the entire offseason knocking the rust out of his body in order to perform to the level of the rest of the O-line.
Is he in dire need of development? Not exactly, but he's in dire need of performing to his potential. Especially considering the Tide's first opponent is B1G power Michigan.
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Adrian Hubbard will not be starting without some experience on the field. He saw time against Arkansas, Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Tennessee and LSU in 2011. (Those were just the SEC opponents he saw time against.)
Hubbard will be one of two sophomores on the linebacker corps for the 2012 Tide. That youth is going to be tested. Yes, it's a little unfair to expect the younger members of the team to be more prepared than the older ones, but that's life.
Opposing offenses are going to be targeting the youth on the Tide's defense to try to gain a scoreboard advantage as early as possible. Teams like Michigan and Arkansas are already aware that there are few advantages to be gained over the Tide.
Hubbard may need the least development of anyone on this list, but he's still going to need to be more ready than half the starters on the depth chart.
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Xzavier Dickson is one of those rare boys to see playing time against an SEC opponent in his first year at the Capstone. He saw that action against Ole Miss in what became a 52-7 rout of the Rebels.
Dickson has moved from a kid that saw some action to a defensive starter in one offseason. The majority of his football experience was gained in high school.
He's about to get thrown into the deep end of not only the toughest conference in college football but the toughest division in college football.
Dickson is going to need to listen to every word that Kirby Smart, Scott Cochran and Nick Saban deliver to him. He's going to be the youngest member of a starting crew that has a great shot at repeating as national champions.
He's going to have to perform at a high standard under tremendous pressure. The offseason development for Dickson can be the difference between star linebacker and "that kid that let Denard Robinson run one in from 60 yards out."
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Christion Jones became a de facto household name when he replaced an injured Marquis Maze on special teams in the BCS title game against LSU.
As impressive as his performance was, there is a line of kids on his heels that would do almost anything to start for the Tide.
Jones will be part of one of the highest-potential offenses in recent memory at the Capstone. If he doesn't do his part to light up the scoreboard, Amari Cooper or Chris Black will be happy to oblige.
If the Tide is going to repeat, the offense will have to carry the load for the first four or five games while the defense finds its rhythm. The receiving corps cannot afford to learn McCarron's timing during the season. They need to learn it now while mistakes won't cost them wins.
The JUCO transfer from Northeast Mississippi has earned his starting spot over junior John Fulton. That says a lot about his skill.
However, Northeast Mississippi is not Ole Miss or even Mississippi State. Deion Belue is the only starter that hasn't seen even one snap against an SEC offense in-game. (He's seen an elite offense in practice, but that's still not a real game.)
Belue hasn't even seen garbage time against Vanderbilt. He will have some missteps during the early part of the season as he gets acclimated to the conference's speed. The good news is that he's had ample opportunity over the last few months to step up his game to SEC level.
The other good news is that he is also the only new starter to have played full seasons of college football before even if it was junior college. If he concentrates during the summer and early fall, he will be an asset instead of a liability.