Alabama Football: Young Stars Who Will Shine in Western Kentucky Tune-Up

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 01:  T.J. Yeldon #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs the ball against Jake Ryan #90 of the Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When the Alabama Crimson Tide welcome the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Crimson Tide will have a great opportunity to showcase the future stars of the program.

Let's be honest, there's no conceivable scenario where Western Kentucky is able to stay in this game. Alabama is coming off of the heels of a 41-14 drubbing of the Michigan Wolverines and are many experts' pick to bring home another national championship this season.

That doesn't mean that this is necessarily a throw-away game, though. Each game in a season is an opportunity to progress and become better than you were last week, so the Tide must continue to improve on their way to competing for an SEC title and then, a national championship.

Part of that improvement will be some extended playing time for the younger Tide stars that will develop into larger roles in the future. Here are the young players to keep an eye on as Alabama rolls Western Kentucky.


T.J. Yeldon

After last week, picking Yeldon as a young player to watch is a no-brainer.

Yeldon didn't get many touches, but he made a huge statement with what little opportunity he had. He carried the ball 11 times for 111 yards and scored a touchdown on the ground while also snagging a pass for 26 yards.

Clearly, Yeldon is a highly talented freshman, and he could be the next great running back to come out of Alabama. His explosiveness should be on full display against the Hilltoppers, as they will be absolutely overmatched by the Tide offensive line.

Yeldon should have no problem improving on his performance from last week and should put up huge numbers this week.


Dee Hart

The greatest strength of Alabama is their depth. This is one of the few teams in the country that goes two to three deep at nearly every position on the roster.

The position of running back could be the deepest of the all, as Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon form a great one-two punch, but Dee Hart is a candidate to become the third-best option on this roster after an underwhelming performance against Michigan.

Hart was a 5-star running back prospect coming out of high school, but a knee injury last season has slowed his growth to this point. He only averaged around two yards per carry against Michigan, but expect him to make a splash against Western Kentucky, as he is too talented to have two bad performances in a row.


Adrian Hubbard

Shifting the focus to the defensive side of the ball, sophomore outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard will have a big opportunity to make a name for himself.

Going against Michigan last week, containment was the primary goal when it came to putting pressure on the quarterback. Expect Saban to let the backers and defensive line go wild on Western Kentucky quarterback Kawaun Jakes, as he is not nearly the threat that Denard Robinson was.

Hubbard could be the next dynamic pass-rusher for the Tide, as he has the build and skill to fill the shoes of Courtney Upshaw this season. A few sacks against the Hilltoppers would announce his arrival on the college football scene.