Alabama Football: Ranking the Tide's Best Players Who Have Yet to See the Field
It is one of the things that gets us college football fanatics by during the offseason. The speculation as to what will really become of the incoming and redshirt freshmen when play resumes in fall began in earnest when the Tide took the field last weekend for the beginning of spring camp.
Fortunately for Alabama, the coffers are full when it comes to the availability of fresh talent to replace those who have departed for the NFL.
Head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will begin evaluation on many of these highly coveted players now in hopes of having them ready for kickoff on August 31.
Here is a glimpse of eight rookie players that 'Bama fans can look forward to seeing this fall when the Tide begins its quest for a third consecutive BCS championship.
8. Cooper Bateman
The quarterback out of Salt Lake City, Utah was ranked No. 11 at his position by Rivals.com coming out of high school.
He has the size and build of a prototypical NFL quarterback and is possibly best known for his incredible arm strength and deep passing abilities.
Bateman will most definitely ride the bench behind AJ McCarron this fall, but he will also be given every chance to earn the backup role. If he can pull it off by unseating Phillip Ely, look to see Bateman take some snaps in the fourth quarter of early season blowouts.
In 2014, there is a very real chance that Bateman will be the next starting quarterback for the Tide.
7. Robert Foster
Rivals.com rated wideout Robert Foster (Monaca, PA) as the third-best receiver in the land and the 46th best player overall.
Foster accounted for over 1,800 total yards and 20 touchdowns as a high school senior.
It may be difficult for him to break into what may the Tide's best receiving squad in decades this fall, but he would be a very nice threat to have opposite Amari Cooper.
Foster is also a kick returner and played defensive back as well last year, picking off four passes in the process.
He has good size and is a very physical player, something that coach Saban should grow to love very quickly.
6. Jonathan Allen
The Alabama defensive line will be one of the Tide's biggest question marks this fall. After the losses of Quinton Dial, Damion Square and Jesse Williams from last season, there are positions that need filling.
Ashburn, Virginia's Jonathan Allen may be ready to fill one of these openings right away.
Allen was ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 11 overall prospect in the country this winter and can do a little bit of everything.
He is fairly small for a defensive end (6'3", 263) but has amazing speed and a quick first step. He could also fit a linebacker role, but is likely to be more needed up front.
Both a pass-rusher and run-stopper, Allen appears destined to be one of the greats if he lives up to his promise and continues to develop his skills.
5. A'Shawn Robinson
Take just one look at defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson and you will know well what a grown man looks like.
This defensive tackle from Arlington, Texas ranked as the 33rd-best overall recruit in America according to Rivals.com. He played on both the offensive and defensive lines in high school, but he will most likely play defense for the Tide.
Robinson could be another to make an immediate impact this fall as his speed outplays his size, and he has the ability to get into the offensive backfield quickly.
The disruptive Robinson was a late commit to Alabama and came as somewhat of a surprise. Don't be surprised, though, when he becomes a household name in the SEC.
4. O.J. Howard
Tight ends don't often run sub-4.5 40's, but incoming freshman O.J. Howard does.
Howard is considered to be the best tight end recruit in the nation according to Rivals.com. The Prattville, Alabama native looks in many ways more like a receiver than a tight end and has the speed to go along with it.
While he needs to add some strength and has work to do when it comes to blocking (something Saban will insist upon), Howard has all the tools to become one of the best tight ends Alabama has seen in quite some time.
Due to the departure of Michael Williams, Howard could make a case to see quality playing time right away if he proves himself worthy.
He is a deep threat, but he must put on some weight and strength in order to crack the 'Bama lineup early.
3. Chris Black
2012 recruit Chris Black made some waves of his own last spring for Alabama. The early enrollee was only outshined by T.J. Yeldon in Alabama's 2012 spring game and was set to play right away for the Tide in the coming fall.
Unfortunately, Black was lost before the first game to injury and redshirted for the 2012 campaign.
This spring, Black is back and hoping to resume his position in the Alabama rotation.
Although small in stature, the blazingly quick Black should see the field this fall and may also be a factor in kick or punt return situations.
If he fulfills the promise he showed last spring, quarterback AJ McCarron may have more threats to work with than he knows what to do with.
2. Derrick Henry
Much has been written by Yulee, Florida running back and national rushing-yardage record-holder Derrick Henry. Along with the talk has been the questions.
Is he too big to be a feature back? Will he be moved to linebacker? Did he play against legitimate talent in high school?
We can toss the questions aside now. Henry enrolled early and will suit up for the Tide this spring. He will also be given a chance to carry the ball. How long it will last is unknown, but that is where he is slated to start his Alabama career.
With Dee Hart trying out things in the defensive backfield this spring, Henry now has one less obstacle in his way.
If he can be even half of the devastating force that he was in high school, Alabama will have yet another tremendous tandem in its offensive backfield.
1. Reuben Foster
Highly touted, often discussed and rated by Rivals.com as the best linebacker recruit in the country this year, incoming freshman Reuben Foster may be the most game-ready of all.
Foster flipped his commitment a couple of times last year, but finally settled on the Tide.
He is fast, instinctive and insanely strong for such a young kid. Foster will definitely see the field often an early for Alabama and could work his way into a starting role before the end of the 2013 season.
Defending the pass and being a legitimate pass-rusher may be his only areas needing improvement, and if he can make strides there, nothing may be able to stop his rise to the top of the Alabama charts.
As the gem of yet another outstanding defensive class for the Tide, Foster is a name to remember.