Nick Saban is known for developing players and sending them on their way to NFL stardom. He can see what most coaches tend to overlook when hand-picking a recruit.
It doesn't matter how many stars Alabama has. To Saban, it's all about the poise and character, the fundamentals and work ethic, the will to listen and learn and the hunger to become a better player and person. If they have even the slightest spark of potential talent and carry the traits he's looking for, he wants them.
Javier Arenas, Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Kareem Jackson, Marquis Maze, Josh Chapman, William Vlachos, Robert Lester.
What do all of these great players have in common? They were all three-star ranks by Scout.com—flying under the radar enough for Saban to swoop in and escort them safely back to the Crimson Tide runway.
Let's take a look at the current players flying under the radar that have shown that spark of what they're capable of.
Kenny Bell surprised many people when he made the decision to switch from LSU to Alabama. A four-star receiver out of Rayville, La., many thought Bell would stay at home and play for the Tigers. Good thing Saban and his team were able to sway him in the direction of Tuscaloosa.
Bell is a sophomore this season and currently has only seven catches for 84 yards, with his best game coming against North Texas, where he caught four passes good for 55 yards.
Look for him to capitalize on some opportunities in the second half of the season and become a blip on the radar.
The good news is that he will also be around next season to join Duron Carter.
A freshman out of Lawrenceville, Ga., Hubbard stands at a towering 6'6", yet he's one of the lightest linebackers on the roster at 237 pounds. With his combination of speed and power, he is truly a force on the field. He will have a few more years to grow into that massive frame with the help of Scott Cochran.
He only has five tackles on the season, but he hits like the Sasquatch from the Jack Link's Beef Jerky commercials and can adversely affect the QB's rhythm.
Most notable was Hubbard's hit on Tyler Wilson during the Arkansas game, where he bee-lined for Wilson like Bobby Boucher from The Waterboy and put him on the ground—hard.
Look for Hubbard to blossom in the coming games and seasons, continuing to wreak havoc on opposing QBs.
WR Kevin Norwood
Kevin Norwood showed his spark last season against Penn State, when he took it to the house for 36 yards and ended with a beautiful front flip into the end zone. The sophomore from D'Iberville, Ms. had limited playing time last season, but has more opportunities to ignite his spark this season.
He hasn't been a major target for McCarron, but keep your eye on him. As of now, he has only caught four passes for 30 yards, all coming in the first two games. He did not play against North Texas or Arkansas.
His chance to shine will mostly come next season, but I wouldn't rule out a big play or two from him during the remainder of this season. This guy has talent and, if given more chances, will definitely make a statement.
The son of linebacker coach Sal Sunseri, Vinnie inherited and absorbed defensive knowledge from his father. The freshman out of Tuscaloosa played linebacker in high school and was converted into a defensive back after arriving at Alabama, due to his versatility on defense.
He has already turned the heads of fans with his exciting special teams play. His standout play so far was during the Penn State game, when he swan dived into an opposing lineman and made a gorgeous block for a Marquis Maze kick return.
If he can carry this intensity into next season, he'll have no problem earning a starting position during a breakout year.
But for now, grab a beer and enjoy the special teams entertainment.
Many fans were ecstatic when Ohio native Trey DePriest decided to pledge his allegiance to the Rammer Jammer. The No. 1 MLB prospect of the 2011 recruiting class has been nothing short of phenomenal this season.
Most of his play comes on special teams with Vinnie Sunseri, and the pair has made a name for themselves in that role.
One surprising statistic with DePriest is that he is currently tied for third place in tackles with DeQuan Menzie at 19, with only Mark Barron and Dont'a Hightower having more (30 and 34, respectively). Those tackles came from special teams and clean-up duty, making them quite impressive.
The linebacker position will not skip a beat next season, and you can thank DePriest, in part, for that.
Okay, so this may be a borderline choice—some fans think Kouandjio is still flying under the radar, while others believe he's already on the radar.
In my opinion, he is still flying under the radar for one simple reason: He hasn't been given the green light to protect the blind side on a full-time basis. He's a part-time tackle for now as he gets acquainted with the Alabama offensive system.
From what I've seen, there's no question that he should be starting while Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack resume their guard positions. Alabama would benefit from using their best players at their best positions. Unfortunately, as a couch coach, my opinions have no effect on the Alabama coaching staff's decisions.
For now, he will remain just under the radar. However, don't count on him being there all season should Anthony Steen have a bad day...
WR DeAndrew White earns his first career TD with amazing catch.
White started this season with high praise from coaches during practice and training, earning himself a starting role on the receiving corps. Until recently, he was flying way under the radar.
In his first career debut against Kent State, White got the attention of some fans with a respectable four catches for 44 yards. After that, he sunk into a bit of a lull, making only one grab during the next four games.
The game at Vandy was his way of saying that the lull was over without having to say anything, at least from a verbal perspective.
He broke out of his shell with an amazing TD catch in the back of the end zone. The second TD grab, a 39-yard bomb from McCarron, helped him shed any remaining shell.
Until he can stay somewhat consistent and not fall into another lull, his official status will be "Under the Radar."
However, I can admit that he instantly turned my sitting position into a 40-inch vertical while I cheered at the TV screen.