Alabama Football: Like '99, True Freshmen Will Make an Impact

T.L. PellmanSenior Analyst IJune 30, 2008

By Stephon Lewis

OK, let's talk history.

I know, I know.  Bama folks are always talking about the past.  You will just have to trust me on this one.  This is some good stuff.

Now that the Tide has landed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, more of Bama’s rivals now contend that true freshmen rarely make a difference on a competitive team.

But just looking back to Bama's last championship team ('99 SEC, its 21st), there were four true freshman starters from a top five rated class: One on offense with Dante Ellington at right tackle, and three on defense—end Kenny King, linebacker Saleem Rasheed and cornerback Gerald Dixon.                      

So what does this have to do with anything?  Don’t get your urnge panties all in a bunch.  I’m getting to that.

Comparing that recruiting class, which also featured RB Santonio Beard and Florida killer, wide receiver Antonio Carter, to this year's recruiting coup is not necessarily the point here.  The question is, how do we determine the potential impact a true freshman can make since it's been done before?

Much like the ‘99 squad, there is considerable talent on this year’s offense, especially on the Offensive line where the RT position is the only arguable weak spot.  Like this year, the ‘99 OL also featured a star center in Paul Hogan along with an all-world left tackle in Chris Samuels.

Although there was a pretty good battle in the spring for the RT spot with Drew Davis taking the lead, just like ‘99, many Bama fans still look forward to a high profile freshman tackle coming in and making an SEC splash.

Fitting the bill:

* Tyler Love - tackle


In ‘99, the previous recruiting class brought in some solid defensive line talent but used the ‘99 class to bolster a young talented team.  When Bama needed a defensive end to step up, it called on the big time talent of Kenny King.  The ‘08 class has several players that may be able match King’s freshman contributions.

Of these recruits, who will it be?

* Marcel Dareus - Defensive End

* Glenn Harbin - Defensive End

* Courtney Upshaw - Linebacker / Defensive End

* Undra Billingsly - Defensive End


In ‘99, when the Tide needed a playmaker in the linebacking corps, it looked no further than the talented true freshman LB from Birmingham, Saleem Rasheed.  Who could Bama turn to in a year where the true freshman can make a run on a position?

Of these recruits, who will it be?

* Jerrell Harris - Outside linebacker

* Donte Hightower - Linebacker

* Courtney Upshaw  - Linebacker/Defensive End


The state of the current Tide secondary is not to the point of the '99 squad, which would not only need the injection of a true freshman in Anthony Dixon, but would also enlist the services of a high-profile junior college transfer cornerback in Milo Lewis.

While not at the state of emergency that the '99 defensive backfield was in—that distinction obviously goes to the LB position—there are still a few players who could come in and challenge for a starting spot or at least get some major playing time.

Of these recruits, who will it be?

* Robbie Green - Cornerback

* Mark Barron - Safety

* Alonzo Lawrence - Cornerback


Am I saying that Bama will win the SEC because they had a top class?

This was all to say that the Tide can get winning football out of a top-rated class, and probably will.

It's nearly impossible to predict how well any of Bama's incoming freshmen will turn out, but it would be foolish to think the Tide won't benefit positively from such a great influx of talent.

Just like it did in '99.