Alabama Football Player Power Rankings: First Quarter of the Season
It may be hard to believe, but the 2012 college football season is already entering its second quarter. The Alabama Crimson Tide have yet to disappoint and find themselves right back where they ended last season, ranked No. 1 in the nation.
This team is much different than previous editions of the Nick Saban era, as it is still in the process of defining its superstars. Some are certainly a given, but with an excess of young and inexperienced talent that is evolving week-by-week, it often seems that a new star is born with every game.
With this in mind, it is time to take a look at the top ten players of the first four games.
No. 10: Vinnie Sunseri
Sophomore Vinnie Sunseri is often one of those guys who just seems to go unnoticed. Sunseri may well have the most fire in him of any player on the Alabama roster. With pure pluck and grit, he found himself in the rotation as a freshman and has continued to overachieve in 2012.
With one interception and a fumble recovery to his credit, Sunseri is No. 4 on the team in tackles thus far. One of the most effective headhunters of the defensive secondary, Sunseri is usually good for at least one highlight-reel hit in every game.
Most importantly, his motor seems to never slow down, and his furious intensity is an infectious asset for the entire defense.
No. 9: Amari Cooper
Freshman and early enrollee Amari Cooper came to Alabama with the highest expectations laid on a Tide receiver since Julio Jones rolled into town.
Cooper recorded his first career reception in the opener against Michigan, but has seen his playing time and opportunities increase in every game since. He picks up many of his yards after the catch, currently leads Alabama in passes caught with nine and is second in receiving yards with 138.
If these first four games are any indication of what Cooper is going to do over the course of the next four years, he is most definitely a star in the making.
No. 8: Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy entered the spring as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart even though he was nursing an injury. After a slow start, as he was hobbled in the first two games, Lacy has found his form from a year ago and is starting to emerge once again as the Tide's go-to ball carrier.
Lacy failed to average four yards per carry in each of the first two games, but rebounded in the 52-0 drubbing of a team dressed in Arkansas uniforms with 55 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. Last week, he averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and went over the century mark for the first time with 106 total yards.
We have yet to see Lacy at his best this season, but it is beginning to look like that day is coming sooner than later.
No. 7: Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster
One of the main areas of concern last season was the kicking game. After the first of two games with LSU, it seemed that the kickers were going to be the ones to cost Alabama a national championship. They recovered, though, and played big part in the title-game win over LSU.
This season, Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster have been about as spot-on as one could ask for.
Shelley has been a perfect 3-3 in his field-goal attempts and has knocked through each of his 21 extra-point kicks.
Foster, who handles the longer kicks, is an impressive 4-6 on field goals. He has yet to attempt one from less than 40 yards out, and his two misses were from over 50 yards. Just as importantly, Foster has yet to have one of his kickoffs returned.
No. 6: Ed Stinson
Like Sunseri, defensive lineman Ed Stinson does not always get the national or even local credit he deserves.
The Tide have recorded 26 tackles-for-loss this season, and Stinson has been given credit for five of them, leading the team. The junior, who is No. 5 on the defense in total tackles, has arguably been the most effective on the 'Bama front line and is a run-stopping monster.
The somewhat unexpected emergence of Stinson is one of the keys to the early success of the Tide defense, and his efforts should not go unnoticed.
No. 5: Christion Jones
There may not be a more nerve-racking thing for a coach or fan than installing a new punt returner. Christion Jones got his first chance in the BCS championship game last January, replacing the injured Marquis Maze, and has not looked back.
Jones is averaging just under 11 yards per return this season with a long of 31 yards.
Further cementing him in his role as one of the key players on the Alabama offense, Jones has caught seven passes this season for 125 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns.
The sophomore has earned his way into every facet of the offense for the Tide this season, and his impressive hands have helped him to bring down a few balls that would have landed as incompletions for many receivers.
No. 4: T.J. Yeldon
Now we all know why Auburn was so upset when T.J. Yeldon dropped his verbal commitment to play for the Tigers in February, coming to play for the Crimson Tide instead.
Yeldon quickly made a name for himself with a stunning 137 total yards and a 40-yard touchdown run in the Michigan game. On the season, he is averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per carry and is also No. 5 on the squad in pass receptions.
Overall, Yeldon leads the team in total yards, averaging 86.2 per game, and has found himself as one of the most dependable weapons in the Alabama arsenal.
No. 3: Dee Milliner
Junior Dee Milliner set the tone early in the season-opening blowout of Michigan by breaking up four passes, three of them in the first half. Milliner joined Robert Lester as the most experienced returners in the defensive backfield this season, and has yet to leave anyone disappointed.
Milliner has just one interception thus far, but his ability to shut down the most dependable of receivers has left opponents scrambling to complete passes, thus helping to set up the six interceptions by the Tide defense so far this season.
No. 2: C.J. Mosley
Linebacker C.J. Mosley has taken the bull by the horns this season. His 16-yard interception return off of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in the opener helped to finish off the one-time pride of the Big Ten before halftime.
Mosley easily leads the defense in tackles with 29, 15 of them solo takedowns. The top-three tacklers for Alabama in the first four games are all linebackers, but Mosley has shown himself to be the best ball hawk on the team at this point.
With a combination of punishing hits and a nose for the football, Mosley is likely the one piece that the Tide defense cannot afford to lose if it wishes to help 'Bama to another BCS title game.
No. 1: A.J. McCarron
As if it were not expected, Alabama's "game managing" quarterback A.J. McCarron may well be the best quarterback in the SEC right now, if not the entire nation.
The ever-calm leader of the 'Bama offense is currently ranked No. 4 in all of FBS in QB rating. He is No. 6 nationally in yards per attempt, No. 8 in touchdowns with 10 and is just one of eight quarterbacks with no interceptions in over 80 attempts despite having been sacked nine times already.
It is numbers like these that have McCarron seeing his name on premature Heisman lists this year. Like Mosley is the one invaluable piece of the defense, McCarron is the key that opens the offensive strongbox for Alabama.