Nick Saban has several young players waiting in the wings ready to emerge this fall.
A big reason for Alabama’s success in the Nick Saban era has been the Tide’s ability to replace NFL-bound talents with young and hungry players eager to make their mark.
Running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper are examples of players whom Tide supporters were buzzing about at this point a year ago.
Additionally, the roster is filled with veterans such as quarterback AJ McCarron, receiver Kenny Bell and linebacker Adrian Hubbard who are capable of filling the leadership role. However, Saban and his staff also have several players ready to break out and become household names this fall.
Some young stars have already flashed their abilities and will take on greater roles this season. Others are recovering from injuries and are ready to show that they can become key contributors once again.
So which players are Tide fans most excited to watch this season?
DeAndrew White began the 2012 season as the team’s starter at the X receiver position and held that role until he tore his ACL in the opening minutes of the fifth game against Ole Miss, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com.
Freshman Amari Cooper stepped into White’s role and caught two touchdown passes in the second quarter against the Rebels, and he would go on to become one of the country’s top playmakers at receiver.
However, as Gribble noted, White exploded in the team’s first spring scrimmage, making seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
With White in the mix at receiver, Alabama has its healthiest rotation of the Saban era at the position.
Before Amari Cooper took the country by storm, fellow true freshman Chris Black was turning heads in the Tide’s fall camp.
A shoulder injury caused him to take a redshirt, but the buzz about Black remains a year later.
Count ESPN’s Tom Luginbill, who ranked the speedy wideout No. 1 in his list of 10 future college football stars, among the believers, according to Mark Heim of AL.com.
With Cooper likely to get a ton of attention from opposing defenses, Black is one of a handful of receivers who will have ample opportunities to make big plays.
To this point in his career, redshirt freshman linebacker Ryan Anderson, who was a prep teammate of T.J. Yeldon’s, is probably best known for being one of two players sent home for missing curfew during the week of the BCS title game, according to an Associated Press article (via SI.com).
However, Anderson was billed as a 5-star recruit and the nation’s top outside linebacker in the class of 2012 by 247 Sports. This spring, Anderson received the Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman Award and flashed his versatility by lining up at inside and outside linebacker during the A-Day Game.
If Anderson can continue to build on his strong spring performance, he could play a vital role in helping the Tide improve its pass rush.
Alabama brought in a decorated group of linebackers (Ryan Anderson, Dillon Lee, Tyler Hayes, Reggie Ragland and Denzel Devall) in its 2012 recruiting class, but Devall was the one to make the quickest impact as a true freshman.
He played in all 14 games and recorded 18 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Devall mainly saw time as a backup to starting outside linebackers Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson. But his play a year ago could open the door for him to earn a bigger role this fall.
The Louisiana native enjoyed a strong spring, earning the Bart Starr Most Improved Player Award. His continued improvement is a strong sign that he is ready for a breakthrough season.
Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson is another redshirt freshman who impressed in practices last season..
Nick Saban has already gushed about Tomlinson's skills and potential, according to Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com.
With a year of seasoning and a clean bill of health after recovering from a torn ACL last offseason, Tomlinson could wreak havoc as a pass-rushing defensive end.
Considering that Saban has said he wants to change his philosophy for that position, Tomlinson could play a vital role in helping the Tide’s defensive line be more aggressive and active in pressuring the quarterback.
Prior to a leg injury that knocked him out of spring ball, true freshman running back Derrick Henry was making a strong case to win the backup job behind T.J. Yeldon.
The 6’3”, 240-pound Henry possesses a rare set of skills at a position that Alabama has enjoyed more than its share of special talents in recent years.
Despite his enormous size, Henry is an all-around back who has the tools to be effective on any down and distance.
As one of the crown jewels of the 2013 class, Henry may be the freshman who Tide fans are most excited to see this season.
Coming into last season, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a former 5-star recruit who had just scratched the surface of his potential in his freshman season and was expecting to make a significant leap forward as a sophomore.
Clinton-Dix emerged as one of the top safeties in the SEC by season’s end.
This year, sophomore safety Landon Collins is hoping to follow a similar path.
After recording a pair of interceptions in Alabama’s A-Day Game, Tide fans are giddy at the thought of Collins and Clinton-Dix lining up in tandem on the back end of the defense.
On a team filled with promising young talents, Collins tops the list of players whom Alabama fans are most excited to see this fall.