While Alabama is wrapping up its 2014 recruiting class, eight signees are already on campus, taking classes and gearing up for spring practice. That gives them a head start over their fellow recruits who won’t arrive until May or August.
Recently, players like T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper have made the most of their extra semester and were able to jump into the mix right away.
Here, I’ll give a brief overview of all eight of Alabama’s early enrollees and talk about their chances to contribute early next season.
All recruiting information comes courtesy of 247Sports.
Cameron Robinson, 5-star OT, West Monroe, La. (West Monroe), 6’7”, 335 lbs.
Rated as the No. 3 prospect overall and No. 1 tackle by 247Sports, Robinson comes to Alabama as a candidate to replace Cyrus Kouandjio at left tackle.
Nick Saban does not usually play offensive linemen right away, but there have been exceptions. As Andrew Gribble of AL.com notes, four of Alabama’s starting five offensive linemen this year redshirted their first year on campus.
The only exception? Kouandjio, who was similarly rated coming out of high school.
Tony Brown, 5-star CB, Beaumont, Texas (Ozen), 6’0”, 188 lbs.
Brown is the other candidate of the freshmen early enrollees to see some early playing time. With Alabama having both cornerback positions pretty much up for grabs, a top talent like Brown figures to be right in the mix early.
However, he isn’t off to the best start.
His arrest this weekend for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest puts him in an early doghouse with Saban and his staff. While it’s unclear exactly what happened—AL.com’s Michael Casagrande interviewed eyewitnesses who painted a different picture than police of the incident—it looks very bad on Brown so soon in his Tide career.
How he responds, and what kind of treatment he gets from Saban, could determine whether his first semester gets off to a good start or not.
Laurence "Hootie" Jones, 4-star S, Monroe, La. (Neville), 6’2”, 220 lbs.
Jones is one of two Alabama signees at safety, one of Alabama’s positions of need with the early departures of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri.
Whether Saban plays him at the vacant free safety position or strong safety, where Landon Collins is the incumbent, could determine how much Jones sees the field his first year.
Many of Alabama’s top safety prospects, like Sunseri and Collins, made their marks on special teams before playing on defense. Special teams appears to be the most likely option for Jones right now.
David Cornwell, 4-star QB, Norman, Okla. (Norman North), 6’5”, 241 lbs.
The story to watch for Cornwell in the spring will be how well he rebounds from a knee injury that kept him off the field for much of his senior season at Norman North.
With a wide-open quarterback competition and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin coming in with a clean slate, Cornwell will at least have a chance to show the coaches what he is capable of during the spring, summer and beyond.
Last Thursday, Cornwell posted a (very blurry) video to Instagram of him running around and throwing. On the same day he said in a tweet: "Just got done throwing[...] Been a long time but back to my old self. Thank god every day for this recovery process[,] met a lot of great people!"
Cameron Sims, 4-star WR, Monroe, La. (Ouachita Parish), 6’4”, 199 lbs.
Sims jumps into a crowded wide receiver depth chart with Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White all returning, and rising sophomore Chris Black and a trio of redshirts behind them.
Still, Sims will greatly benefit from getting a head start on learning Kiffin’s offensive system as the only wide receiver to enroll in January.
Sims could see some playing time on special teams or as a reserve in blowout games. He looks headed for a redshirt, as three receivers did last season.
Shaun Hamilton, 4-star ILB, Montgomery, Ala. (Carver), 6’0”, 240 lbs.
Hamilton will find himself in the middle of a battle for the inside linebacker spot previously occupied by C.J. Mosley.
While Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster will have legs up on him just from experience, Hamilton will have time to learn the system while acclimating to college life.
As is the case at safety, linebackers often have to prove themselves on special teams before taking over full- or part-time duties on defense.
Jarran Reed, 4-star JUCO DT, Scooba, Miss. (East Mississippi CC), 6’4”, 310 lbs.
Reed spent two years in community college before jumping to the BCS ranks. He committed to be a part of Florida’s 2013 class, but he was unable to qualify academically.
Reed comes into a defensive line that lost Jeoffrey Pagan and Ed Stinson. He should have a chance to make an impact on a front that likes to go six and seven deep during games.
Alabama never got dominant play out of its nose tackle position last season, a role that Reed could fill nicely.
D.J. Pettway, 4-star JUCO DE, Scooba, Miss. (East Mississippi CC), 6’3”, 250 lbs.
Pettway returns to Tuscaloosa after he was dismissed from the team following an on-campus robbery last February. The other three players involved in the incident did not get the opportunity to do the same.
According to AL.com’s Andrew Gribble, Saban said:
The university made a decision that he could come back. We made a decision that we wanted him back. We know D.J. Pettway very well. He certainly made a mistake in terms of what he did. We felt that this one person, because he did the things he was required to do, deserved a second chance.
Pettway saw playing time as a reserve in his redshirt freshman year in 2012. He figures to be in the mix to play up front, as well.