Alabama Football: 5 Freshmen Who Will Make an Impact in Fall Practice
Alabama’s 2012 title run was fueled, in part, by major contributions from true freshmen such as running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper.
After bringing in another top-flight class in February, Nick Saban has a number of players from the 2013 class who are capable of making an impact when fall camp begins in August.
With the Tide’s newest class loaded with impact players at every position, which true freshmen will put themselves in position to earn significant playing time this fall?
5. Raheem Falkins, WR
Alabama’s receiver unit is loaded with a combination of talent and experienced veterans, but Saban has added a pair of dynamic wideouts in Raheem Falkins and Robert Foster.
The 6’2”, 185-pound Foster was a 5-star prospect and considered to be the nation’s top receiver in the class of 2013, according to 247 Sports.
However, Falkins, who was one of seven players in the 2013 class to enroll in January, looked impressive in spring practice.
The acclimation period proved to be beneficial for Falkins.
According to Travis Reier of BamaOnline, the 6’4”, 195-pound New Orleans native caught three passes for 43 yards in the spring game. Considering his imposing size and strong spring performance, Falkins has put himself in a solid position to become a part of the receiver rotation this season.
4. Jonathan Allen, DE/OLB
Nick Saban has hinted at changing his philosophy about the types of players he wants at defensive end, according to Alex Scarborough of TideNation.
With his desire to add more athletic and explosive pass-rushers coming off the edges, Saban scored a huge coup by landing 5-star standout Jonathan Allen.
The 6’3”, 260-pound Allen racked up 35 sacks in his final two prep seasons, and he possesses the type of freakish athleticism required to help the Tide combat mobile quarterbacks in spread offenses.
While it may take time for Allen to learn the Tide’s schemes, his skill set and ability to become a situational pass-rusher could be his ticket to get on the field right away.
3. Maurice Smith, CB
Entering the season, corner is perhaps the biggest area of concern for Alabama.
Outside of seniors John Fulton and Deion Belue and sophomore Geno Smith, the rest of the Tide’s corner unit is largely a mystery. That is part of the reason why Saban moved receiver Cyrus Jones and running back Dee Hart to the secondary in the spring.
The Tide brought in three corners—Maurice Smith, Jonathan Cook and Eddie Jackson—in their 2013 class.
All three possess the size and athleticism to contribute early. Considering that Smith was the first corner to commit among the group of incoming corners, the 5’11", 184-pound Texas native could be the top option to see the field early.
2. O.J. Howard, TE
True freshmen tight end O.J. Howard could add a new dimension to the Tide’s offense.
Howard has added more than 15 pounds of muscle to his frame since arriving in Tuscaloosa in January, and he now checks in at 6’6”, 237 pounds.
The former 5-star recruit is a pass-catching threat at a position normally reserved for players who excel as run-blockers in the Tide’s scheme.
With no clear-cut front-runner to emerge at either tight end or H-back, Howard is a tantalizing option who could prove to be too tough to leave on the sidelines.
1. Derrick Henry, RB
Of all the potential phenoms in the 2013 class, running back Derrick Henry has clearly been the player whose arrival has been the most eagerly anticipated.
Even at a school like Alabama that has been blessed with outstanding rushers in recent memory, Henry is a rare physical specimen at 6’3”, 240 pounds.
While a leg injury cut his spring short, Henry wasted little time in making an impression on his teammates, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com.
With a wide-open competition to be the understudy to starter T.J. Yeldon, Henry is one of four decorated running backs from the 2013 class who will vie for playing time this fall.
Considering his unique physical stature, and that he was the only rusher to enroll early, Henry should hit the ground running in August in his quest to land the coveted backup running back job.