Alabama vs. Georgia State: Eight Players To Watch Thursday Night
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Alabama should win handily Thursday against Georgia State. What the game lacks in drama it should gain in an opportunity to see some different Alabama players to get in the game.
With third string quarterback Phillip Sims on target for a red shirt, its a great opportunity for AJ McCarron to get some extensive playing time against a live opponent. We know McCarron has a dangerous arm, but how consistently can he manage the passing game?
Is Running Back Jalston Fowler's Destiny?
Running Back Jalston Fowler
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Backup Eddie Lacy will get some playing time Thursday and everyone is anxious to see what he can do. For the most part, we know Lacy is talented and will be part of the future rotation.
What might be more interesting is to see how much playing time massive running back Jalston Fowler gets and how well he does. The 6' 0" 250 lbs. back could give Alabama an option in 2011 that it has not had in years, a big back who can act as a wrecking ball to the defensive front seven. His success from now, through the bowl practice, may determine if he stays at running back or moves back to linebacker.
Is Kevin Norwood in Line For a Starting Assignement?
Wideout Kevin Norwood
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This year only two young receivers joined the rotation at wide receiver: Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell. Both have played sparingly with Norwood getting the most snaps. With the expected jump of Julio Jones to the NFL and the graduation of senior Earl Alexander there are spots to be had.
If Norwood can put together a big game it could go a long way to setting up this spring in front of the pack.
The competition is getting stiffer, but Alabama has red-shirted three receivers this year and has commitments from four more for the 2011 signing class.
Offensive Tackle Tyler Love
Once upon a time offensive tackle Tyler Love was one of the top line prospects in America, coming out of Mountain Brook High School. That was 2008, and since that time he has remained buried on the depth chart.
Love is now a second string tackle but has not logged much time except in blowouts. If Love gets playing time he needs to have a good game because more talented recruits are on the way. Red-shirt freshman Arie Kouandjio, in particular, may compete for a spot this spring. Alabama could even sign his "little" brother Cyrus (6' 7" 322) who is one of the nations top recruits this year.
Before you write off Tyler Love, its worth noting that more than any other position, offensive lineman can take longer to develop. Many players need three or more years after high school to develop physically to the level needed to play in the SEC.
Freshman Safety Nick Perry
Safety Nick Perry
Nick Perry quickly impressed coaches this fall with how he picked up the complexities of the Alabama defense.
Thankfully, Alabama has gotten to the end of the season without having to play the true freshman as a starter. The Georgia State game might be an opportunity for Perry to make a statement that will put him in good position this spring.
In 2010 the 5' 9" walk on Will Lowery has taken most of the backup snaps. This spring the 6' 2" Perry will be one of many attempting to take that hard earned playing time away from him.
Defensive End Undra Billingsley
Undra Billingsley started at defensive end, spent a season at tight end, and surprised many by earning a second string spot this past spring.
Since that time, Billingsley has fallen behind Darrington Sentimore and others, and his playing time has been scarce. But, when he has gotten in there he has shown some speed that overall the defensive line lacks.
Billingsley, who weighs in the mid 260's, is more typical of the size you see for a pass rushing end. With Alabama's well documented weakness in pass rushing its a good bet they will be taking a hard look at players like Billingsley to see if they need to be playing him more.
Alex Watkins Is A Player On The Rise
Jack Linebacker Alex Watkins
Alex Watkins is one of those players you saw every spring and wondered: Why doesn't he ever play? He began 2010 buried on the depth chart much like Eryk Anders before him. His junior season has seen him rising from the depths to gain playing time. Currently he is the second string Jack Linebacker and plays liberally on special teams.
Anders went on to earn a starting spot in Alabama's championship season and used his speed to become a dangerous pass rush specialist. Anders also secured his place in Tide Lore with the sack that ended the Texas comeback securing Alabama's 13th national championship.
Watkins reminds me of Anders, he's fast like Anders but has more size.
Watkins is a player to keep your eye on.
I Just Can't Stop Watching CJ Mosley
Linebacker CJ Mosley
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I know this guy isn't a backup player, but if Alabama's defense is on the field, don't take your eye off this guy.
He surprised many by earning a second string spot this fall as a true freshman. Several games into the season when Chris Jordan was injured, CJ Mosley stepped in with more playing time. Soon he got his first start and struggled, but in the last few weeks he has exploded into a tackling machine.
His 58 tackles trail only Danta Hightower and Mark Barron, all while technically sharing time with sophomore Nico Johnson.
One has to wonder what CJ Mosley can do next year after surviving Alabama's grueling off season training program. If early returns are any indication, Mosley is the next big star linebacker at Alabama.