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Alabama Football: 5 Key Takeaways from Tide's Final 2014 Depth Chart

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims (6) throws the ball among his teammates during an NCAA college football practice, at the Thomas-Drew practice fields on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press
Marc TorrenceAlabama Lead WriterNovember 20, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s become a local holiday of sorts around these parts: Depth Chart Day.

Alabama coach Nick Saban released the first—and only—official depth chart of the season. He always warns that this is in no way concrete and should be taken with a grain of salt.

So let’s break it down.

Below is the depth chart handed out to media members on Monday and a few takeaways from it.

Official 2014 Alabama depth chart
Position1st String2nd String3rd String
QBBlake Sims/Jake CokerAlec MorrisCooper Bateman
RBT.J. YeldonDerrick HenryKenyan Drake
FBJalston FowlerMichael Nysewander/Kurt Freitag/Corey McCarronMichael Nysewander/Kurt Freitag/Corey McCarron
TEBrian Vogler/O.J. HowardDakota BallTy Flournoy-Smith
WR (X)Amari CooperArDarius StewartRaheem Falkins/Cam Sims
WR (Z)DeAndrew WhiteRobert FosterN/A
WR (H)Christion JonesChris BlackN/A
LTCam RobinsonDominick JacksonN/A
LGArie KouandjioRoss PierschbacherN/A
CRyan KellyBradley Bozeman/Josh CasherN/A
RGAlphonse TaylorLeon BrownN/A
RTAustin ShepherdGrant HillN/A
DEJonathan Allen/Dalvin TomlinsonDee LinerN/A
NGA'Shawn RobinsonDarren Lake/Brandon IvoryJoshua Frazer
DED.J. PettwayDa'Shawn Hand/Jarran ReedN/A
SAMDenzel DevallDillon LeeRashaan Evans/Christian Miller
MIKETrey DePriest/Reuben FosterShaun Dion HamiltonN/A
WILLReggie Ragland/Reuben FosterWalker JonesN/A
JACKXzavier DicksonRyan AndersonN/A
CBBradley SylveMaurice Smith/Marlon HumphreyN/A
CBCyrus JonesTony Brown/Eddie JacksonN/A
SSLandon CollinsJarrick WilliamsLaurence "Hootie" Jones
FSNick Perry/Geno SmithJabriel WashingtonN/A
StarJarrick Williams/Geno SmithMaurice SmithN/A
PK/KOAdam GriffithJK ScottN/A
HolderCooper BatemanAlec MorrisN/A
PJK ScottAlec MorrisN/A
LSCole MazzaM.K. Taylor/Michael NysewanderN/A
PRChristion JonesCyrus JonesN/A
KORChristion Jones and DeAndrew WhiteCyrus Jones and Landon CollinsN/A
Alabama

 

1. Freshmen in key roles

It was all but official up until Monday, but it looks like Alabama will enter the season with a true freshman at left tackle. Cam Robinson, a former 5-star recruit, will be tasked with protecting the quarterback’s (whoever it is) blind side. While Saban said he couldn’t remember ever having started a freshman at such a key spot, it shows the confidence Saban has in the freshman.

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Elsewhere, plenty of members of Alabama’s No. 1 2014 recruiting class dot the depth chart.

Joshua Frazier or Da’Shawn Hand could see some playing time on the defensive line, while Saban said Rashaan Evans has impressed at outside linebacker. Two 5-star freshman corners, Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown, are both listed as second-team corners.

The only other true freshman starter, though, is at punter, where JK Scott is set to handle those duties.

 

2. Rotation at inside linebacker

Alabama has three capable options at inside linebacker in senior Trey DePriest, junior Reggie Ragland and sophomore Reuben Foster. It looks like the three of them will all play at some point in certain situations.

Foster is one of Saban’s higher-profile recruits, a 5-star from Auburn High School that Alabama snatched from its in-state rival. He’s dealt with frequent neck-stinger injuries stemming from poor tackling form. Saban said he’s learning and improving in that area.

Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

“Reuben is one of these guys that loved to duck his head when he tackled,” he said. “I'm not saying he wasn't an effective tackler. That's what created a lot of problems with his stingers. We've had to re-, sort of, teach him how to take on blockers, how to tackle, so that he is not doing that. Now he's been able to stay healthier and he's been able to make it through scrimmages and he's not had the same issues. I think that's important because I think he can be a player who can contribute a lot to this team this year, especially with the depth situation we have at inside backer.”

It looks like Foster will have a big role on this defense, as he’s listed in that “/” spot at both starting linebacker spots. He’s likely to contribute based on the opponent and the situation at hand.

 

3. Versatility on the defensive line

One of Saban’s frustrations in releasing a depth chart is that things don’t always stay the same in terms of formations or personnel.

A’Shawn Robinson is the perfect example.

The 6’4”, 320-pound defensive lineman could play inside or outside up front, depending on the type of offense Alabama faces. Against West Virginia, he’ll likely play in the middle at nose against a spread-out, uptempo attack, where Alabama wants to have some speed. Against a power team like LSU, though, that role could go to Brandon Ivory, with Robinson outside.

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 09:  A'Shawn Robinson #86 of the Alabama Crimson Tide pressures Zach Mettenberger #8 of the LSU Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

“Really, with the defensive line situation that we have, if we're playing against a team that was in regular, we would play A'Shawn at five-technique and Ivory at nose because they're the best guys to stop the run,” he said. “In nickel situations, we try to get more athletic when we play nickel.

“So now, whether it's Jarran Reed or A'Shawn, they kind of go in and play nose and three-technique with some of our other guys, whether it's Jonathan Allen or Dalvin Tomlinson or whatever, so that we're a little bit more athletic in the pass-rush part of it, got a little more speed on the field, guys can chase down screens better, all those types of things.”

That kind of versatility on the defensive line is a luxury Alabama has with so many diverse options. The three-deep is loaded with quality talent all around who can play in any number of scenarios.

 

4. Running back rotation

While there were plenty of back-slashes across the depth chart, there wasn’t one at running back, where Saban has seemingly decided on a hierarchy in the backfield, with Derrick Henry passing Kenyan Drake.

He still, though, appreciates the diversity that all three bring to the table and wants to get all three involved in the offense.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Derrick Henry #27 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates a touchdown against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy R
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

“Derrick Henry and T.J. (Yeldon) probably are more of the sort of inside, downhill, do-it-all kind of runners,” Saban said. “Kenyan Drake, because of his great speed, can do those things but is also a really good receiver as well as a regular runner. I think all three of those guys are guys we definitely want involved in the game that have playmaking ability. We're very confident that all three of them can make a significant contribution to our team in some kind of way this year.”

 

5. Not settled on a quarterback

If you were expecting a resolution to Alabama’s quarterback competition, you were disappointed on Monday, with both Blake Sims and Jake Coker listed in the No. 1 slot.

It may seem like a given that both will play equally in the opening game, but Saban wasn’t even ready to go that far yet.

Photo Courtesy UA Athletics

“We don't have any plans to do that at this point in this game,” Saban said. “But that doesn't mean that whatever pitcher starts the game is necessarily going to pitch nine innings. I mean, Joe Girardi tells Tanaka he's starting in the game, he's not telling him he's going to pitch nine innings. Does he tell them that, or does he just pitch until he doesn't pitch well any more?”

He later said, “That decision has not been made yet” when asked if both quarterbacks would play.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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