Alabama Football: 7 Crimson Tide Backups Who Will Have an Impact in 2012
For the University of Alabama football team, the backups always get a lot of playing time. They are rotated in early and often, and there are seven guys who likely won't start this year but will have a huge impact.
The frequency that Alabama swaps personnel has a lot to do with how many looks they give the opposition.
Alabama technically runs a 3-4 base defense, but truth be told, they run five or more defensive backs more often than not.
On offense, they play in a single-back set but swap between two tight ends and multiple receivers often.
Though all backups will contribute to the team in some fashion, these seven players will likely stand out the most.
Jack linebacker, 6'3", 283 lbs
William Ming isn't a big name for the Tide...at least not yet.
What stands out the most about Ming is his size. He's built like a defensive lineman, which is what he used to play and was recruited as. He switched to Jack linebacker before the start of the 2011 season.
As a redshirt junior, Ming has been in the system for a while. After spending a year practicing his new position, he should be more than ready to make an impact this coming season.
Adrian Hubbard seems to have the starting position locked down, but Ming will see plenty of action and not just in blowout victories.
Middle linebacker, 6'2", 242 lbs
Trey DePriest is going to be on the field a lot this year, and you can bet he'll be a starter as soon as C.J. Mosley dislocates yet another joint.
Mosley and Nico Johnson, with their extensive experience and leadership abilities, are going to be the Tide's two starting middle linebackers.
In terms of smarts and pure talent, Alabama may not have a better linebacker than DePriest. Only time will tell if he lives up to his potential, but under Nick Saban, he's almost guaranteed to.
DePriest will still be used heavily on special teams, as he is a real headhunter who is never out of position, covering his lane properly.
Wide receiver, 5'11", 185 lbs
Thus far, Christion Jones has worn the now legendary No. 22 jersey well. He made some nice plays throughout the year and showed some real potential from the slot.
Jones also shined on special teams when providing relief for return man Marquis Maze, and he looks to be the primary returner for the Tide this year—unless Demetrius Hart wins that role, as he very well could.
Receivers Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood and DeAndrew White will see the most field time for their unit, and it's been a long time coming, as all three are juniors and more than ready to tear it up.
Jones will see plenty of time as well, and he will excel when playing in the slot. He has a great combination of speed, route-running and hand/eye coordination.
Place kicker, 5'11", 175 lbs
Officially, Jeremy Shelley is going to be the starting kicker for the Tide and will be responsible for the majority of the field goals attempted, which will hopefully be very few with a better showing by the team in the red zone this year.
As a true freshman who didn't enroll early for spring practice, Adam Griffith likely won't be attempting any field goals. Remember when Leigh Tiffin struggled in his early years?
On kickoffs, however, you can bet Griffith is going to be seeing action. Alabama is in dire need of someone who can force touchbacks, and both Shelley and Cade Foster are clearly incapable of it, even with the new kickoff rule at the 35-yard line. Most of Foster's kickoffs in 2011 landed between the 15- and 20-yard lines.
Griffith had a history in high school of putting the ball past the end zone without even giving the opposition a chance to return it.
Alabama's offense will be quite prolific in 2012, so you can expect Griffith to be kicking off many times this coming year.
Nose tackle, 6'4", 315 lbs
Jesse Williams will be the undisputed starter at nose tackle this year; but even with his great motor, he simply can't play the entire game.
That's where Brandon Ivory will come in. He won't rack up the stats, but he will hold his own as the Tide's backup nose tackle. More importantly, he will be a solid backup who keeps Williams fresh throughout the entire game.
As a former 3-star prospect who didn't get a lot of recruiting attention, Ivory was a physically huge player who was labeled as a "sleeper"—a player who doesn't seem great but can turn into a star.
If anyone can turn sleepers into stars it's Nick Saban, especially defensive players.
Safety, 6'0", 215 lbs
I am a staunch supporter of Vinnie Sunseri and believe that he will compete for the starting position, but realistically, it would not behoove the Tide to play him outside of nickel-and-dime packages.
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix is a more complete safety and is better suited for full-time duties. Sunseri, however, excels when he is free to roam.
Think of him like LSU's Tyrann Mathieu, only more capable of regular duties.
Sunseri is a playmaker who can really make the opposition pay when they forget about him even for a split second.
With how often the Tide runs their nickel package, Sunseri is going to be seeing a lot of playing time. Expect him to pick off plenty of passes and be used heavily as a blitzing safety, just like in the photo during the national championship game.
Every Running Back Not Named Eddie Lacy
OK, so this isn't a player, but the entire group of backup running backs are going to be very important this year and will split time in a more even fashion than in the past.
Eddie Lacy can't carry the load by himself, as he's no Trent Richardson, who had to do a lot more than he should have needed to when Lacy was out so much with his turf toe.
T.J. Yeldon was impressive in spring practice and should easily become the primary backup running back.
Jalston Fowler will still be used in some short-yardage situations, and it would be a shrewd move if Saban uses him heavily in the jumbo packages as a running back or even a fullback.
Demetrius Hart is today's Darren Sproles and is going to be used similarly to Auburn's Onterio McCalebb as a perimeter specialist and receiver out of the backfield. You can also bet that Hart will (at least once) line up as a receiver and take the handoff on a receiver sweep.
The Tide will have an increased emphasis on passing this year, but the running backs will be just as important as ever.
Other Backups to Watch
Travell Dixon, Cornerback: Has outstanding size for a corner at 6'1", 191 lbs. Was outshined by fellow JuCo transfer Deion Belue in spring practice. Will be the No. 1 backup at corner.
Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver: Runs incredibly smooth routes and has hands made of glue. He will become Alabama's best catch-in-traffic receiver with time.
Chris Black, Wide Receiver: The perfect compliment to Cooper. Speedy as they come and a true down-field threat with great hands.
Ed Stinson, Defensive End: Could be a starter anywhere else. Very athletic with experience to match. Will be the primary DE backup.
Eddie Williams, Safety/Wide Receiver: Has potential through the roof as a safety or wide receiver. I'm certain Nick Saban is losing sleep over trying to figure out where he should play Williams.
Hardie Buck, Wide Receiver: A special teams contributor who most have never heard of. Performs his role perfectly and covers his lanes like an expert. May sneak up on opponents during trick-play scenarios.
Ben Howell, Running Back: Scout team extraordinaire who had a good spring. Likely won't have an impact during game time but will be instrumental during practice.
Malcolm Faciane, Tight End: Will likely be a starter in the event of injury to Harrison Jones or Michael Williams. Will be Williams' successor. Plays like an undersized offensive lineman with great hands; the definition of a tight end.
Phillip Ely, Quarterback: Will be the Tide's starting quarterback in the event that A.J. McCarron goes down with injury. Does not have ideal size but is quite efficient, and all he does is win. Led his high school team to a state title.
Austin Shepherd, Offensive Lineman: Tide's 2012 version of Alfred McCullough, as the lineman that can do it all. At 6'5", 321 lbs, he will be the first one to take over as a starter in the even of an injury. Can get very nasty in the trenches.
Barrett Jones, Offensive Lineman: The Tide's starting center, but is (unofficially) the backup left tackle. In the event of Cyrus Kouandjio sustaining an injury, Jones will move back to left tackle.