Every time it seems as though Alabama is ready for a down year, the school reloads with even more talent to dominate the rest of the country.
The Crimson Tide lost a handful of elite players to the NFL at the end of last year. However, there is a new batch of young guys ready to make an impact for the SEC squad.
While stars like quarterback A.J. McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley will not sneak up on anyone after great careers, there are a few other players ready to make themselves known with big performances this year. Watch for a breakout season from each of these youngsters.
Ed Stinson, DE
Although Ed Stinson has not racked up that impressive of numbers in his time as a starting defensive end, he has already shown the ability to make a big impact on the Alabama defense.
The senior had only 30 tackles last season, but 8.5 were for a loss. He is great at penetrating into the backfield and bringing down whoever has the ball, whether it is for a pass or run.
When he does not make the play, he causes a disruption as the offense is forced into making a mistake somewhere on the field.
Stinson is also selfless enough to take on blockers to allow others to make a play. This is the type of thing that makes Alabama so good defensively, a great buy-in to the system from everyone on the roster.
Offensive coordinators will know who Stinson is as they are forced to plan around him. In a matter of time, the general public will be well aware of what he can do.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT
NFL teams are all well aware of Cyrus Kouandjio and have been for quite some time. If he decides to leave after this season, it is likely he would find himself drafted in the first round.
However, the tackle was overshadowed last season by three other elite players on the offensive line. Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack were both named first-team All-Americans, while D.J. Fluker was chosen to the second team.
In reality, Kouandjio was as good as all of them and a reason why neither Jones nor Fluker were needed to protect the quarterback's blind side. The young player has great strength and enough technique as a pass-blocker to prevent even the best opponents from beating him.
Although South Carolina is not on Alabama's schedule this year, it would be exciting to see these two teams play in the SEC Championship Game just to watch Kouandjio match up with Jadeveon Clowney.
Either way, the tackle will remain impressive throughout the year and will soon be known as another great lineman to play for the Tide.
Derrick Henry, RB
T.J. Yeldon will be the next great Alabama running back to dominate the SEC and probably be selected early in the NFL draft, following the path of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.
However, he cannot be considered a breakout candidate after rushing for over 1,000 yards last season and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated in its season preview:
This leaves us with the task of figuring out who will be the No. 2 running back on the depth chart. Coach Nick Saban usually likes utilizing at least two players at the position to keep everyone fresh, so there will be plenty of carries available.
The problem is that there are almost too many options this season. Kenyan Drake, Dee Hart and others could all be elite starters at most places around the country.
Still, Derrick Henry is the one who should get the playing time. The true freshman is built like a defensive end but has the speed to beat defensive backs up the field. He will be incredibly tough to stop, and he gives the squad a different dimension on offense.
He is the offensive player who will truly stand out among the rest this year.
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