Alabama Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013
Top-ranked Alabama features a roster stocked with talent across the board, but four weeks into the season, Nick Saban has gotten contributions from several players who entered the season without the fanfare afforded to stars such as AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley.
Some players have stepped up in the absence of others, while some have climbed their way up the depth chart and made the most of the opportunities given to them.
Which players have been the biggest surprises of the season so far?
5. A'Shawn Robinson
It’s not a surprise that Alabama’s celebrated 2013 recruiting class would produce a few players who were ready to contribute immediately.
However, while players such as tight end O.J. Howard and running back Derrick Henry figured to make an impact as January enrollees, former 5-star defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson has stepped in and given the Tide’s defensive line an immediate boost.
At 6’4”, 320 pounds, Robinson is blessed with the size and speed to become a dominant interior lineman. With a solid start to his college career, expect him to become a fixture in the Tide’s three-man front sooner than later.
4. Vinnie Sunseri
Junior safety Vinnie Sunseri has had a knack for being in the middle of the action throughout his career.
In the offseason, some observers and pundits speculated whether Sunseri would hold off talented sophomore Landon Collins for the starting safety spot opposite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Sunseri did indeed hold onto his spot, and the former high school linebacker has already snared two interceptions which he returned for touchdowns.
Regardless of where he lines up for the Tide’s defense, Sunseri continues to be one of Saban’s biggest playmakers on that side of the ball.
3. DeAndrew White
Sophomore Amari Cooper entered the season as the Tide's most potent threat at the receiver position.
However, Saban has assembled a deep and talented fleet of pass catchers to surround quarterback AJ McCarron. So while Cooper has gotten off to a slow start, a number of experienced veterans have stepped up through the first three games.
The biggest surprise of the group has been junior DeAndrew White, who missed a majority of the 2012 season recovering from a torn ACL.
White's 161 receiving yards and two touchdowns leads the receiver unit, and he's re-established himself as one of McCarron's most reliable targets.
2. Jarrick Williams
After starting in place of the suspended Geno Smith as the Tide’s nickel corner against Virginia Tech, Jarrick Williams has been one of the defense’s most consistent players through three games.
The redshirt junior—who missed all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL—heavily factored into the biggest play of the Tide’s season when he tipped a Johnny Manziel pass that Vinnie Sunseri would pick off and return 73 yards for a score.
Considering that Smith has yet to unseat Williams for the job upon his return, it’s clear that Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are comfortable with Williams holding down the “star” position.
1. Kenyan Drake
Considering Saban brought in four talented running backs in the 2013 recruiting class, sophomore Kenyan Drake began the season almost as the forgotten man in a deep and talented stable of rushers.
That theory gained steam after he was suspended for the season opener against Virginia Tech. However, Drake’s number was called in the Tide’s 49-42 win over Texas A&M. Drake made the most of his seven carries as he piled up 50 yards and a touchdown against the Aggies.
Drake also scored a touchdown against Colorado State and blocked a punt that Dillon Lee would scoop up and return for another special teams score.
With the race to find a complement to T.J. Yeldon still ongoing, Drake has positioned himself to earn an opportunity for more carries in Tide’s backfield rotation.