Alabama Crimson Tide Football: 8 Players Who Are Key to the 2011 Season

Blair ChopinContributor IIISeptember 7, 2011

Alabama Crimson Tide Football: 8 Players Who Are Key to the 2011 Season

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    It is always a great thing for college football when the unique energy is there. Just about every year that they put out 22 starters: Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama, USC, Oklahoma and Texas will be ranked in the preseason top 25. 

    It is kind of like the college football coaches and media just owe it to these teams to rank them in the top 25 just because they have done so much for college football all of these years.  But when these teams are legitimately elite, their is nothing better for college football. College Football needs these teams to be elite because it brings in tons of new fans that watch the games either to see greatness or to see these teams lose. This season Alabama has a chance to be one of these elite teams that brings an unique energy to the college football landscape if these eight players step up.

A.J. McCarron

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    Alabama has enough talent that they can be a top two team in the nation even if they have a huge question mark at quarterback.  Saban is still deciding if he should start the pocket passing McCarron or the very mobile Philip Sims.  Both quarterbacks showed flashes of being able to at least manage the game against Kent State but both of these quarterbacks also turned the ball over twice.

    If McCarron becomes such a huge question mark for the Tide that Saban cannot even trust him to manage the game, this will be a huge setback for the Tide.  This makes a 12-0 team suddenly an 8-4 team because they are one dimensional. McCarron and Sims both have the potential to be great quarterbacks as they get more game experience, but if they can manage the game and not make mistakes Alabama should be fine for now.

DeAndrew White

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    Even if he is a redshirt freshman, getting major playing time at a skill position for a top two team in the nation only your second year is nothing to scoff at.  But the truth is the Crimson Tide need more from White than just being a "possible threat," they need him to be the deep threat on this team.  White can be this deep threat, as he has 4.4 second speed, has the ability to get open and is said to have some of the best hands on the entire team. 

    An important part of Alabama developing a passing game will not only be consistent quarterback play but the ability to have receivers who can stretch the field.  Along with Marquis Maze, DeAndrew White will be counted on to do this.

Jesse Williams

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    Jesse Williams is a junior college transfer who is originally from Australia.  The Alabama coaches say that he has the potential to be one of the better defensive lineman in the nation as he combines the speed of a linebacker with the strength and run stopping ability of Alabama legend Terrence Cody. With all of the acclaim that Williams has received during the offseason it is important for him to live up to it on the field this season. 

    Even though Alabama's defensive line appears solid, it is important for this unit to have a star who can pass rush so the team's wonderful linebackers and defensive backfield can come up with turnovers. If Williams can aid in doing this, Alabama might have a chance to be a historically great defense.

Marquis Maze

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    Most college football fans already know that Marquis Maze has the potential to be one of the best receivers in the SEC if he can get some consistency at the quarterback position.  But his receiving skills are not why Maze is on this list.  Alabama's offense could be lethargic this season and when this happens they made need to score using their defense or their special teams. Maze has the potential to be the best kick and punt returner in all of college football.  If he can make big plays on special teams, it will give Alabama time to figure things out on offense.

Dont'a Hightower

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    Everyone knows that Alabama defense is the most talented in the nation and that Dont'a Hightower might be the most talented player on the entire defense.  Even though this defense has tons of talent, they still need someone to step up and take a position of leadership. I feel like Hightower needs to be the guy that leads by example and by his on field behavior. If Alabama's defense learns how to play together and enjoys playing together it will be the best unit in the nation. Hightower's leadership is key to this happening.

Trent Richardson

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    When people ranked Alabama as the second best team in the nation going into this season they factored in that they thought that Trent Richardson would be a Heisman trophy winning quality scat back.  The truth is that with a passing game that is still questionable Alabama needs Richardson to be able to dominate games with his running ability. The 13 carries he had for 37 yards against Kent St. is not going to cut it against SEC competition. If Richardson can dominate games on the ground he will not only be a Heisman candidate, but more importantly could open up a play action passing game that could allow Maze and White to make big plays.

Brad Smelley

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    For young and inexperienced quarterbacks having good tight ends is very essential.  A good tight end provides a safe target for quarterbacks who do not feel comfortable reading complex coverages or throwing the deep ball.  This is why early in the 2011 season Brad Smelley could be a breakout player for the Crimson Tide.  The 6'3 tight end has to find ways to get open and to provide a safe target for one of Alabama's young quarterbacks.  Once the running game gets going, Smelley could also be a big target off play action passes for the Tide.

Dre Kirkpatrick

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    Dre Kirkpatrick has the natural talent to be the best cornerback in the nation this upcoming season. It is important for him not only to be a shutdown cornerback, but to be a cornerback who can create turnovers and make big hits this season.  With an offense that could struggle it is important for Kirkpatrick and Alabama's defense to create turnovers to set up the offense with good field position. Kirkpatrick is one of the players that could help cause these turnovers.