Alabama Football: 5 Exciting Underclassmen No One Is Talking About

Jimmy McMurreyAnalyst IIDecember 29, 2011

Alabama Football: 5 Exciting Underclassmen No One Is Talking About

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    Alabama is a team that is riddled with future and current stars. Some are five-star recruits that fans eagerly await to see in action, but others are dark horse projects that could be destined to raise eyebrows.  

    Recent Crimson Tide players that have done this include some familiar names: Javier Arenas, Mark Ingram and Robert Lester.  

    Not every star begins as a highly touted recruit. Some are afterthoughts that are brought in just to fill recruiting gaps.  

    Here is a look at five such players on the Tide's roster that could become the featured stories of tomorrow.

Austin Shepherd, 6'5", 321 Lbs., Offensive Line, Redshirt Freshman

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    Austin Shepherd is one of the best run-blocking offensive linemen on the roster. He's a bully when it comes to paving a road for the running backs.

    His pass-protection ability is what has kept him from cracking the lineup already, but as a third-year player in 2012 he may change that. He also works his height well against shorter opponents.

    The position at right guard will be wide open going into next year, as Anthony Steen and Alfred McCullough shared time there, even after Steen had fully recovered from a concussion.  

    Shepherd could make a name for himself, beginning with spring practice.  

Xzavier Dickson, 6'3", 240 Lbs., Linebacker, Freshman

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    Xzavier Dickson was a four-star-rated defensive end coming out of a high school and a pretty good pickup for the Tide.

    Before his commitment, he stated he would decide between Georgia and Alabama with a coin flip because he was that torn between to the two. That turned out to not be the case, and he picked Alabama outright.

    Since then, he has very quietly moved from defensive end to linebacker as one of the backups for none other than Courtney Upshaw.

    That's right, Dickson is poised to become Alabama's next great jack linebacker. He already has the skills and experience rushing the passer from the edge, and all he needs now are a few more pounds of muscle.

Chad Lindsay, 6'2", 287 Lbs., Center, Redshirt Freshman

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    As displayed by the photo, Chad Lindsay has no neck; his head is directly attached to his shoulders.  

    When a player roots himself as the undisputed starter and reliably holds onto it for years, fans tend to stop thinking about their successor.

    Such is the case with Alabama's three-year starter at center, redshirt senior William Vlachos. Vlachos is graduating this year, and it's unclear who will be the next guy snapping the ball.

    Lindsay is a prime candidate for that position. He's as strong as an ox and is nearly identical in size to Vlachos with the exception of his smaller gut.  

    He will compete with Kellen Williams for the starting center job in the spring, and I expect him to win it.  

Brandon Ivory, 6'4", 308 Lbs., Nose Guard, Redshirt Freshman

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    Coming out of high school, Ivory was an unheralded late commitment. He had offers from Memphis and Alabama. The choice must have come easy.

    Ivory has since dropped over 20 pounds of fat and earned significant playing time against Georgia Southern when Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry sat out on a one-game suspension.

    Chapman and Gentry both graduate this year, and that will leave a lot of room for future nose guards. I expect big Jesse Williams to move from defensive end to nose guard next year, but he'll need a good backup.  

    Ivory also wears the legendary No. 62 jersey, but he's not quite as big as the guy who wore it before.

Harrison Jones, 6'4", 248 Lbs., Tight End, Redshirt Freshman

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    Here is a photo of Harrison Jones passing out water after the April tornadoes that shredded Tuscaloosa. He shares his brother's passion for helping others.

    Yes, Harrison Jones is the little brother of Barrett Jones. He's not quite as big as his brother, and that's why he's a tight end.  

    He was actually considered a little small for a tight end, sitting at around 220 lbs., but he now weighs almost 250 lbs. and runs and catches like a wide receiver.

    He perfectly fits the mold of a Nick Saban H-back and will be used heavily in the passing game when he takes the field.  

    Unlike the previous receiving tight ends for the Tide in recent years, I expect Little Jones to have more than 30 receptions in a single season. I also expect him to be a starter next year.

    If he's even half as good as his brother...