Alabama Football: Underrated Tide Players Ready for Breakout 2013 Season
Alabama will have to replace a number of key contributors from this year’s BCS title-winning team before the 2013 season kicks off. The Tide are loaded with talent, but a number of guys get lost in the shuffle of the stacked recruiting classes that Nick Saban’s staff reels in.
There are five underrated players who will fill major roles for the Tide and have breakout seasons this fall. The offensive line, linebacking corps and offensive skill positions will all see new playmakers in 2013.
This is a look at the five players who will earn their way into the Crimson Tide talking points before the end of the 2013 season.
Austin Shepard, Offensive Tackle
The Crimson Tide will lose one of their biggest impact players at the tackle position with the departure of D.J. Fluker after 2012. Austin Shepard is his backup and will look to step in immediately as the starter this spring.
There is a number of talented offensive linemen on the Tide roster, but Shepard appears to be the next in line for the starting tackle position.
Alabama has to run the football to score points. The Tide are a play-action offense that runs off of an effective ground game. The pass is opened as safeties cheat down to cover the run. To run the ball effectively, the Tide’s offensive line must get major push on the opposition.
This is a crucial development for the Tide, as they need Shepard to become a solid starter this offseason.
Kevin Norwood, Receiver
Kevin Norwood is a rising senior for the Crimson Tide and is expected to be a contributor in 2013. His lack of production so far in three years has caused some questions concerning his breakout ability, pushing him into the underrated ranks.
Norwood has proven that he is a gamer when on the field and healthy, and he will be a great second or third option to Amari Cooper heading into the new year.
There is a lot of talent that remains at the receiver position for Alabama, but the experience factor favors Norwood. Look for Norwood to finally hit his stride in his senior season and match his previous three years of production in his final season.
Bradley Sylve, Cornerback
The Crimson Tide will be on the lookout for star players to fill gaps in the secondary this fall. One of the positions that will be up for grabs will be cornerback.
Bradley Sylve is a rising sophomore corner for the Tide and is prepping for a breakout season. He is a star corner from Louisiana that has yet to find his way to the field for the Tide. He also battled through a nagging hand injury in 2012.
As Alabama begins its hunt for replacement corners, Sylve will be a name near the top of the list when drills begin. He is a quick player that is excellent in zone and man coverage. By midseason, he should be a name that is recognizable for the Tide faithful.
Ryan Anderson, Linebacker
Ryan Anderson is an up-and-coming inside linebacker for the Crimson Tide. He is a big-bodied linebacker—6’2”, 244 pounds—and has been in the Alabama system for a year now.
With the departure of Nico Johnson, playing time could open up on the inside this season for Anderson.
Anderson is set to become one of the next big names at the position for Alabama. The Crimson Tide have developed a lot of talent at the position in the past few seasons and Anderson appears to be the next name in line to become the heart of the Alabama defense.
Kenyan Drake, Running Back
Kenyan Drake is in a great position to become a regular player in the Alabama running back rotation this coming fall.
Drake has carried the ball in mop-up situations, but he has never been asked to be a part of the heavier starting load. With the departure of Eddie Lacy, he will have to pick up the slack.
The Tide have a number of backs on roster, but none fit the mold of the every-down back like Kenyan Drake. Drake will be a solid No. 2 in a dangerous tandem that includes T.J. Yeldon.
If Alabama can put together another solid offensive line this year, it will have one of the most dangerous running back duos in the game. Drake is here to stay, and this will be his breakout season.