Alabama vs. Michigan: 5 New Starters Most Likely to Choke on the Big Stage
The Alabama and Michigan matchup is closer than ever from kicking off and settling the debate of which team is truly a national championship contender in the 2012 season. Both squads return a lot of key players from a year ago and are out to fight for respect this season, as they both had successful runs in 2011.
We are all familiar with the stars of both teams such as A.J. McCarron, Eddie Lacy and Denard Robinson, but each year there are always new starters that step onto the scene. These guys are expected to replace the talented players that came before them and make immediate contributions for their team.
The problem is that being a first-year starter and having your first game under the bright lights, in a game that could either make or break your season, isn't easy.
Here are five new faces that could crumble under the pressure in the big matchup.
Christion Jones, Alabama, Wide Reciever
Christion Jones is listed as a starting wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide after playing in just a few games last season. He finished the year with only three receptions for 49 yards and no touchdowns.
Jones is entering his sophomore season for Alabama and has a chance to become a deep threat for this team with his game-changing speed. He has great footwork, gets off the line quickly and can really stretch the field for this offense.
The problem is that he has not been productive enough to rely on in a game this big, especially when Michigan will be returning every starting member of its secondary. The Michigan secondary was ranked 16th in the country last season, allowing just 190 yards in the air a game.
The Wolverines will do everything they can to keep the speedster in front of them and limit his production.
Ricky Barnum, Michigan, Center
Ricky Barnum has the huge task of replacing David Molk, a Rimington Award winner, at center. Despite being a fifth-year senior, Barnum has had very little playing time throughout his career and only has three career starts under his belt, none of which were at the center position.
There have been terrible exchanges between the center and the quarterback in the past when Molk is not on the field. It will be up to Barnum to snap the ball cleanly to Denard Robinson, and he will have to be the voice of this unit by making sure everybody understands what their task is on each play.
Those things are not exactly easy being a first-year starter and facing one of the better defenses in the country.
Xzavier Dickson, Alabama, Linebacker
Xzavier Dickson played in six games last season, but with the linebacker depth on this team a year ago, he didn't quite see significant playing time. Now, he will enter the starting lineup as a sophomore and is expected to replace Courtney Upshaw, who just so happened to be a second-round pick in last year’s NFL draft.
Dickson has the size and athleticism to become a great linebacker like so many before him, but he has yet to really get his feet wet in this system. Being the starting Jack linebacker, it will be his job to try and contain quarterback Denard Robinson and his athletic ability.
Good luck with that.
William Campbell, Michigan, Defensive Tackle
We have heard many great things about William Campbell throughout camp. He has gotten in much better shape, has a better understanding of the game and is ready to produce this year, as he knows this is his last chance to make a name for himself.
The problem is that he has not produced at all throughout his career and has been a bust, as he came out of high school as a 5-star recruit.
Campbell has all of the tools to be a successful defensive lineman in this league, but up against one of the top offensive lines in the country, he will not have a successful season debut.
Last season, Jeremy Shelley handled all of the kicks inside 40 yards, while Cade Foster handled the long-range field goals. However, neither one of them were effective, making a combined 63 percent of the overall field-goal attempts.
It appears that they will both split duties again this season, as they are both listed as starting kickers to begin the year.
What makes that field-goal percentage even worse is that the duo was 8-of-14 against ranked teams last season. You can't exactly feel comfortable about either one of these kickers when called upon if you are an Alabama fan.
The Crimson Tide community better hope this game is a blowout, as many people believe it will be, or this could be ugly for the defending national champions.