Tide True Freshman Face Uphill Battle For Playing Time

Douglas WebbCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2009

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 24:  Defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington #97 and Rolando McClain #25 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate after sacking quarterback Brandon Cox #12 of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 24, 2007 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The last two fall camps in Tuscaloosa have opened the door to a multitude of freshman finding their way on to the Tide's two deep depth chart. Many of those have reached taken starting roles.

Players like Julio Jones, Don'ta Hightower, Mark Ingram, Terrance Cody, and Rolando McClain either started in the opening game of their freshman years or were part of a regular rotation from their first game on.

Jones, Hightower, and Cody all started their first game at Alabama. Mark Ingram was Glenn Coffee's backup in last years opener but rotated in and out of the game.

There have been many other players since Nick Saban's hiring that have seen early playing time even if it only came starting on special teams or providing depth late in games.

This season's group of freshman could find it much harder penetrating the Tide's depth chart.

Things could change in the next 20 or so days leading up to the season opener. Right now though it appears that only junior college transfer James Carpenter is likely to start for the Tide.

Other freshman could possibly earn spots on the depth chart once the Tide begins scrimmaging. 

Trent Richardson possesses the strength, speed, and vision to start as a freshman at a majority of programs around the country. Richardson was more interested in going somewhere he could win championships.

Programs like that aren't the type places that guarantee you early playing time.

Richardson knew that just as he knew the Tide already had top notch tailback talent on it's roster. Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch have already staked their claim to the tailback spot at Alabama. If he intends to see playing time with the Tide this season, he'll have to earn it.

Richardson will need to really stand out in scrimmages to earn a shot at significant early playing time.

Mammoth offensive lineman DJ Fluker was handed the Tide's starting job at left tackle by fans before he ever stepped on campus. Unfortunately those fans, yours truly included, didn't take into account the talent already on hand. James Carpenter already had a spring to learn the system as well as the experience to go with it.

Fluker has everything it takes to be a top notch offensive tackle. Everything that is but experience. With only one year of experience on the offensive line he may need some time under the tutelage of Alabama offensive line coach Joe Pendry.

Michael Bowman has more than passed the eye test in the early part of Alabama's camp. It will be interesting to see how he does in the early scrimmages.  He obviously has the hands and athleticism necessary to be a solid SEC receiver. 

The question is does he have the speed or route running necessary to get open? If so he appears to have the strength to pick up significant yards after catch. That would make him a great match opposite Julio Jones and Marquis Maze in three wide sets.

The list goes on...

Nico Johnson at linebacker, if he can pick up the intricacies of playing the "Will" linebacker position, then the long awaited move of Dont'a Hightower to "Jack" could finally happen.

AJ McCarron, sure he probably needs a year in the weight room to put on 20 pounds or so, he has a very strong arm though and an even stronger understanding of the game. It is entirely possible that he could win the backup quarterback job if sophomore Star Jackson fails to perform.

Dre Kirkpatrick possesses everything it takes to be a great cornerback, size, agility, speed, and quick hips.  It will be surprising if he doesn't earn a spot backing up Javier Arenas at some point fairly early in the season.

Chance Warmack was an early enrolee giving him the benefit of going through spring practice. He has the ideal build for a guard and has shown himself to be an excellent run blocker. It is still early in camp but at this point it appears he has earned the backup role at right guard.

That's a significantly smaller group than was expected to contribute the last two seasons.

It's impressive when you consider that with so little early playing time available Alabama's coaching staff managed to sign the top rated class in the country.

Very impressive.


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