Alabama Football: Projecting the 2012 Depth Chart After Signing Day
With a ton of stars off of 2011’s National Championship team departing Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will have a tough task in trying to become the first team to repeat as champs since Nebraska in 1995.
However, do not expect any form of sympathy from the Tide’s opponents this fall.
After all, Alabama just inked the nation’s top recruiting class last week, and a ton of talented underclassmen have been patiently waiting in the wings for a chance to step up and claim a bigger role.
While August is six painful months away, it’s never too early to peek ahead to see which players will make a move towards claiming a coveted starting spot come September.
Here’s a first look what the 2012 depth chart could look like post-signing day.
Projected Starters in Bold
QB: A.J. McCarron, JR—Philip Sims, SO
RB: Eddie Lacy, JR—Jalston Fowler, JR—Dee Hart, FR or TJ Yeldon, FR
WR: Kevin Norwood, JR—Duron Carter, JR or Amari Cooper, FR
WR: Kenny Bell, JR—Deandrew White, SO or Chris Black, FR
TE: Michael Williams, SR—Brian Vogler, SO
TE/HB: Harrison Jones—SO--Kurt Freitag, FR
LT: Cyrus Kouandijo, SO—Tyler Love, SR
LG: Chance Warmack, SR—Ryan Kelly, FR
C: Barrett Jones, SR—Kellen Williams, SO
RG: Anthony Steen, JR—Isaac Luatua, SO
RT: DJ Fluker, JR—Austin Shephard, FR
Alabama will return six starters off of last season’s unit that finished second in the SEC in total offense (31st nationally), including quarterback A.J. McCarron and four offensive linemen—including last year’s Outland Trophy winner, Barrett Jones.
However, in a sign of just how much talent resides on the roster, look for Jones to slide in at center to replace the departed William Vlachos, with former 5-star recruit Cyrus Kouandijo taking over at left tackle to protect McCarron’s blindside.
The skill positions will have to reload, but watch for Kevin Norwood to build off of his strong performance in the BCS national title game and claim one of the two receiving spots.
Kenny Bell has the early lead for the other spot, but look for JUCO transfer Duron Carter and a trio of true freshmen receivers—Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Cyrus Jones—to add some explosiveness to the Tide’s attack under first-year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
Eddie Lacy has patiently waited for two first round backs to depart, and now, he will handle the load as the Tide’s feature back, but watch for redshirt freshman Dee Hart and true freshman T.J. Yeldon to push for the backup role.
DE: Damion Square, SR—Ed Stinson, JR
NT: Brandon Ivory, SO—Jeoffrey Pagan, SO
DE: Jesse Williams, SR—Quinton Dial, JR
OLB/Jack: Adrian Hubbard, SO—Xzavier Dickson, SO or Ryan Anderson, FR
MLB: Nico Johnson, SR—Tana Patrick, JR or Dillon Lee, FR
MLB: Trey DePriest, SO—C.J. Mosely, JR or Reggie Ragland, FR
OLB: C.J. Mosley, JR—Jonathan Atchison, JR
CB: Dee Milliner, JR—Deion Belue, JR or Geno Smith, FR
CB: John Fulton, JR—Travell Dixon, JR
SS: Vinnie Sunseri, SO—Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, SO or Landon Collins, FR
FS: Robert Lester, SR—Jarrick Williams, JR
Alabama loses some heavy artillery off of the nation’s best defense, with only one of the team’s top-five leading tackles returning from the 2011 unit.
However, four starters return from the crew that demolished LSU in New Orleans last month, and several young players with significant experience will get a crack at becoming full-time starters.
Up front, sophomore Brandon Ivory will get the first crack at replacing departed run-stuffer Josh Chapman, but the Crimson Tide signed five defensive tackles in the 2012 class, so look for one of them to make a splash and contribute this season.
Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley are seasoned veterans at linebacker, but the unenviable task of replacing stars Don’t’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw still looms.
A trio of sophomores from the 2011 class will fight for the two vacancies: Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson are will battle for Upshaw’s jack spot, and Trey DePriest has the inside track to take over for Hightower, but a quartet of incoming freshmen linebackers will enter the competition for playing time.
The secondary must be retooled as well, but juniors Dee Milliner and John Fulton will be pushed for the vacated corner spots by incoming JUCO transfers Travell Dixon and Deion Belue.
Meanwhile, Robert Lester is the lone returning starter on the back line, but Vinnie Sunseri played well after Will Lowery was lost to injury.
Freshmen Geno Smith (at corner) and Landon Collins (at strong safety) will be hard to keep off of the field this fall.
Kicker: Jeremy Shelley, SR—Adam Griffith, FR
Punter: Cody Mandell, JR—Jay Williams, FR
Kick Returners: Christion Jones, SO—Dee Milliner, JR—Deandrew White, SO—Bradley Sylve—FR or Cyrus Jones, FR
Punt Returner: Christion Jones, SO—Deandrew White, SO or Cyrus Jones, FR
Long Snapper: Carson Tinker, SR
Holder: A.J. McCarron, JR
Obviously, kicker Jeremy Shelley atoned for his (and fellow kicker Cade Foster) mistakes in the regular season loss to LSU with five made field goals in the title game victory over the Tigers.
However, expect true freshman Adam Griffith to push Shelley and Foster for the starting job this fall.
Cody Mandell (at punter), McCarron (holder) and Carson Tinker (snapper) will reprise their 2011 roles, but finding a returner to replace the dangerous Marquis Maze will be Saban’s top priority in the spring.
Sophomore Christion Jones filled in admirably for Maze in the BCS title game, and that should earn him a chance to lock down a spot on kick and punt returns.
Electric true freshman athlete Cyrus Jones and sophomore Deandrew White will be the main challengers vying to climb up to the top of the depth chart in the fall.