Alabama Football: 4 Former Blue-Chippers Who Will Finally Shine in 2014
Perhaps unlike any other school in the country, Alabama reloads its roster every year thanks to a string of banner recruiting classes annually pulled in by Nick Saban and his staff.
After sending another eight draft choices to the NFL, once again, the Tide’s ability to develop the talent already on the roster will be tested.
As the 2014 season approaches, a handful of former stud recruits from the 2012 recruiting class are prepared to step into prominent positions after biding their time learning the system.
Which players are finally poised to blossom for the Tide this fall?
Reggie Ragland arrived at Alabama with sterling prep credentials. He was the fourth-highest-rated commitment in the 2012 class, and a top-50 player nationally, according to 247Sports.
While players such as Landon Collins and T.J. Yeldon enter this season as household names, Ragland—who has seen limited action as a reserve and on special teams—will try to lock down the inside linebacker position vacated by All-American C.J. Mosley.
If Ragland’s spring performance is any indicator, the 6’2”, 259-pounder could be headed for a big year. His improvement certainly caught the attention of Saban, according to BamaOnline’s Marc Torrence:
Reggie has done a fabulous job for us. He had a really good spring. He's a very good athlete, very explosive. He's a very good open field tackler, good space player. He can play outside or insider linebacker for us. We need him inside and he's done a really good job with that. He's a guy that could really do great things for us next year.
From the moment he arrived on campus as an early enrollee in January 2012, it seems as if Chris Black has been on the verge of breaking out and becoming a big-time playmaker for the Tide.
However, an injury suffered in fall camp caused him to redshirt in his first season. In 2013, he simply got stuck behind a logjam of experienced talent and managed to only record eight catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
As Travis Reier of BamaOnline notes (subscription required), despite veterans such as Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White returning, the pressure is on Black to make some noise in his third season on campus.
However, as his 55-yard touchdown reception in the spring game showed, Black is an explosive talent who is capable of adding another dimension to the Tide’s passing game.
Injuries are seemingly the only thing that has kept Dalvin Tomlinson from making an impact during his time at the Capstone.
A torn ACL suffered during his senior season in high school forced him to redshirt in 2012. He played well in the Tide’s 2013 season-opening win over Virginia Tech, but as Andrew Gribble of AL.com detailed, a second knee injury suffered in practice last September cost him to miss the remainder of the season.
“He was doing a fantastic job for us, played well in the first game rotating in,” Saban told Gribble. “We hate to ever see any player get injured. But Dalvin has done everything the right way since he’s been here. Just something that is unfortunate that happens in any sport, really.”
Even though the defensive end positions are stacked with potential impact performers such as A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen and D.J. Pettway, assuming he remains healthy, Tomlinson has the speed, strength and athleticism necessary to finally build on the promise he’s shown up to this point.
After starting his college career as a wide receiver, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Cyrus Jones endured his share of highs and lows in his transition to corner last season.
Jones finished tied for the team lead with two interceptions, but he was never able to put together consistent stretches of strong play.
However, entering fall camp, Jones is in the unique position of being one of the most experienced corners on the roster. Considering the arrival of touted freshmen corners Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, the pressure is on Jones to perform at a high level when fall camp arrives.
With another spring under his belt, Jones has a chance to lock down a starting spot, assuming he continues to make solid progress.