Alabama walked away from national signing day with the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the country (247Sports Composite Team Rankings) for the third year in a row.
This program is loaded with talent, but there are a few stars that will step in this fall and make waves. Some will be major surprises when their names are called after making plays.
Alabama is on its way to another title run, and players like Derrick Henry will be able to help make that happen as freshmen.
Summer will heat up the race for playing time at a number of key positions, and when the dust settles, these five areas are ones to watch where incoming freshmen can make an impact.
Derrick Henry is an early enrollee for the Tide this spring and his 6’3”, 240-pound frame will be hard to miss in the backfield.
T.J. Yeldon was able to come in as a freshman and make a major impact for the Alabama backfield last fall and Derrick Henry is expected to do the same this year.
By the end of the season, Henry should be the talk of the backfield. This guy is a physical specimen and is already SEC-ready. By the fall, Henry will be tough to contain inside the Crimson Tide backfield.
Alabama has a stable full of talent in the backfield, but Henry is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He will be in the rotation by August.
Don't be surprised when Henry finishes the season as the leading rusher for the Tide.
Raheem Falkins is a sleeper at the receiver position in this class, but as an early enrollee, he will have early exposure to the offense and have time to settle in the system before the season.
Falkins is a very talented and lengthy receiver that can make a catch whenever the ball is thrown his way. He catches the football away from his body, and he will use his 6’5” frame to outbox the defender with ease.
He is not a burner on the outside, but Falkins is a solid possession receiver that will be a unique talent for the Crimson Tide. He will resemble what the Texas A&M Aggies did with Mike Evans a year ago.
Evans burned the Tide for four catches and four first downs. Nick Saban and Co. learned from that game and signed their own rangy pass-catcher. Falkins is not an all-star recruit, but his intangibles will put him on the field early.
Falkins will jump a host of other talented stars at receiver this year and become a four-year contributor for the Tide. If he can improve his speed down the road, he could become the next Julio Jones in the Alabama offense.
The Alabama secondary is one of the most talented every year in college football, but heading into the 2013 season there are some questions. This program lost a lot of talent in the secondary to the NFL draft, but newcomers in this class will help shore up depth.
Guys like Jonathan Cook, Maurice Smith and Anthony Averett flew under the national radar, but they are as talented as they come in the secondary.
The Tide will need an aggressive corner to take over where Dee Milliner left off and Cook is that guy. He is a true hitter and loves to get in the thick of run defense.
He will be a turnover leader for this defense the next few seasons.
The Tide returns a lot of proven talent, but there will be a need for these three guys to step in and make plays this fall.
Cook is the name to watch.
One of the most underutilized positions in the Alabama offense over the past few seasons has been the tight end. The Crimson Tide signed the nation’s No. 1 player at the position (247Sports Composite Rankings) in O.J. Howard this February, and with his arrival this spring should come a new focus on the position.
Howard is a freshman that is talented enough to play right away. It is expected that he will start immediately.
Howard should be able to double Michael Williams' 183 yards and four touchdowns from last season in 2013. By the end of his career, he should be among the best in Tide history at the position.
The Tide have a few players that could step in this year and help out at tight end, but Howard is by far the most talented option now found on the roster.
Alabama will be a very dangerous offense with Howard being utilized in the passing game. He needs to improve his blocking, but his overall presence on the field will create mismatches and add a new dimension to the Tide offense for the new year.
The Alabama defensive front has not been extremely explosive over the past few years, but that appears to be changing with this class.
The Tide signed Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen in this class.
Williams is a speedy defensive end that will add bulk in the future, but he is a true rush end. Alabama has not had a nasty defensive end that could get after the quarterback in a few years. Look for Williams to finish this year with the highest sack numbers in recent memory.
Allen is listed as a linebacker and he may stay there, but his 6’3”, 260-pound frame will allow for him to be a force from either defensive end or outside linebacker. Allen is another guy that will get after the quarterback.
Between the two there should be double-digit sacks this season and beyond.
The Tide needed to gain some instant playmakers in the front seven in this class, and they did it when Williams and Allen signed their letters of intent.