5 Alabama Players Sure to Surprise at Fall Camp
It’s been a few months since we've gotten an up-close look at the Alabama football team.
For the first time since A-Day, we’ll get to see the Crimson Tide prepare for the 2014 season when fall camp opens over the weekend.
Alabama is breaking in new starters at key positions and has plenty of young talent fresh off of yet another No. 1 recruiting class.
It’s hard to “surprise” most people at Alabama, since most players come in so highly rated and publicized, but some still make an impact when they aren’t necessarily expected to.
Here are five players to watch in that regard at fall camp.
Alabama never really settled on a starting offensive line during the spring, shuffling players around to see how they might fit at different spots.
Grant Hill, for example, played tackle and center, while Leon Brown saw time at tackle and guard.
Alabama coach Nick Saban and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal were likely waiting for the rest of their signees to get to campus before settling on a starting five up front.
JUCO Dominick Jackson was part of that group, and he’ll likely compete for a starting spot either at tackle or guard. Senior Austin Shepherd appears to have a stranglehold on the right tackle spot, while freshman Cam Robinson is expected to get first crack on the left side.
So Jackson could end up at right guard, where there was never a permanent option during spring practice.
The 4-star defensive back has had an up-and-down go of it in his first two seasons at Alabama.
He looked to be in line for a significant role in 2013, but a preseason DUI landed him in the doghouse, which he seemingly couldn’t get out of.
Now, though, with the departure of Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the NFL early, Smith is in line for a starting role at safety.
He got first-team looks at free safety in nickel and dime packages during spring practice. He could grab a full-time role with a strong showing in the fall.
Tony Brown was one-half of Alabama’s 5-star signee duo at cornerback, and he got a leg up on the competition by enrolling in the spring.
He saw starting reps during those spring practices, aided by an injury to presumed starter Eddie Jackson and relative inexperience among the rest of the group. Brown was much more physically put together than some thought he would be and already had the look of a seasoned starter.
Brown is on the track to early playing time, but a starting spot even as a true freshman is not out of the question.
After a productive sophomore year at outside linebacker (3.5 sacks, five tackles for loss), Dickson took a step back in 2013 in terms of playing time and production.
2014 looked to be much of the same for him until Dillon Lee’s spring DUI thrust him into a starting role.
Dickson drew praise from Saban and his teammates during the spring and has a chance to hold onto his starting role.
He could be in line for a bounce-back senior season to end his career on a high note.
All eyes will be on the Florida State transfer as the countdown clock to meaningful snaps starts.
Grainy videos from closed reps inside the practice facility are all well and good, but the rubber meets the road in fall camp, and Coker will have to prove himself in game-like situations.
By all accounts, he possesses the physical tools needed to lead Alabama, but putting it all together in the heat of the moment is what can make or break a quarterback.
Expect Coker to step it up when it matters most and firmly take hold of the starting job before Alabama hits the field against West Virginia on August 30.
Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Quotes/observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.