Future success often hinges on the amount of improvement redshirted players make in their year off the field. With spring approaching and 2009 redshirts now foaming at the mouth for playing time, lets take a look at the newly available 2010 players.
Starting on offense and at wide receiver Alabama redshirted three players. During fall camp Kenny Bell suffered shin splints and thanks to good depth at the position likely had no chance of avoiding a redshirt. Bell is a small receiver who will attempt to compete with raw speed. Hopefully his shin splints will not return.
Kevin Norwood, Kendell Kelly, and Michael Bowman all fought tooth and nail through fall camp to avoid the redshirt. Eventually Bowman was the only one who found his way onto the field.
Kevin Norwood 6' 2” 180 out of Mississippi has good size and great hands. Stats are always hard to come by but he reportedly had some long touchdown catches in practice this fall.
Kendell Kelly is even bigger at 6' 3” and 216 lbs. Kelly was a top recruit as a junior in high school but was slowed significantly by injury his senior season. Most expected him to automatically redshirt but he showed in fall camp he was much closer to being recovered than expected. I'm interested to see what a year in the weight room has done for Kelly.
Its possible with the suspension of safety Robby Green, Norwood or Kelly could switch to safety as well. This would likely happen early in spring training or not at all.
On the offensive line, Alabama redshirted four players.
DJ Fluker arrived at Alabama with only a year of high school experience on the offensive line. His footwork might have been behind and he was massive. He has since shed some of the extra weight to help his footing and reportedly feels much better about his game. He will get a look at right tackle, but if things don't work out he could switch back to the defensive line where he started in high school.
Tackle Darius McKeller and Kellen Williams will both be aiming for spots on the two deep offensive line roster. Both could play tackle or guard.
Anthony Steen may get a look at center and may end up on the defensive line. He's a versatile athlete who had experience snapping and even kicking.
At quarterback the wait for AJ McCarron is finally over. He barely kept his redshirt in 2009. McCarron overtook Star Jackson at the number two quarterback during the bye week last year and may have even been considered to replace McElroy when he struggled mid season.
McElroy bounced back to secure his job but In the National Championship Game he was suffering from cracked ribs. There is no doubt Nick Saban would have burned McCarron's redshirt if needed to get the big prize.
Thankfully Marcel Darius pretty much ended any chance Texas had with his bone jarring hit on Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.
McCarron will finally be able to take his game to the field in 2010 and will be just one play from starting should something happen to Greg McElroy. Even if he plays only mop up duty the experience can go a long way to helping him win the job for 2011.
McCarron's road to the starting position is far from clear though. True Freshman Phillip Sims is already on campus and Star Jackson hasn't thrown in the towel yet.
Alabama redshirted two running backs, Eddie Lacy and Mike Marrow. Eddie Lacy reportedly gave the first team defense fits running on the scout team. Lacy has stated publicly that he is after the touches vacated by departed senior Roy Upchurch.
Mike Marrow is a fullback who may take up the job of departed senior Baron Hubor who played fullback on the goal line and H-back elsewhere.
Defensively Alabama redshirted only one defensive back, Burton Scott. Scott actually played wide receiver as a true freshman and converted to defensive back last spring. Due to the switch he took a redshirt his second year on campus. He is a leading candidate to take one of the three empty corner spots.
Due to Alabama's ridiculous depth on the defensive front Alabama redshirted all four signees last year.
Alabama regularly rotates six players on the defensive front and may play up to nine. Since Nick Saban arrived he has not been able to field an effective pass rush from the defensive end spots. This has been a hallmark of the Saban defense in times past.
With a young secondary you can bet the status quo is not going to do for 2011. Alabama will no doubt be looking for players that can do what Marcel Dareus did last last year.
Darrington Sentimore may be one of those players. Sentimore was a mid level recruit as a high school senior. Many felt his ratings were hurt by his grades. Nick Saban however was on him early and consistently when others, most notably LSU ignored him.
Later when Sentimore's grades improved LSU and other schools put on the full court press to get him but it was too late. Sentimore stuck to his commitment and signed with the Tide.
At 6' 3” 280 lbs he is the prototypical pass rushing end. He will get every opportunity to see the field.
Other ends who redshirted include Chris Bonds 6' 4” 280 from South Carolina. Bonds was a US Army All-American and rated the fifth quickest defensive lineman by Rivals.
Brandon Moore 6' 5” 310 could end up on the defensive front or the offensive line. This spring should indicate where he spends his career.
William Ming 6' 3” 260 is an eye test flunkie with a big time motor. He needed work in the weight room when he arrived, but don't read too much into appearance. When it comes to pass rushing, the great ones are born not made, its a gift.
Alabama redshirted three Linebackers.
Possibly the best of them is Tana Patrick a finalist for the high school Butkus Award and a US Army All-American from North Jackson High school.
Word out of T-Town was that it was killing the coaching staff to keep him off the field last year. That wait will finally end this spring. With Dante Hightower not being able to do contact work yet, Patrick will get every opportunity to show what he can do.
Ed Stinson 6' 4” 240 is the ideal size for a jack linebacker. Stinson a south Florida product and SuperPrep All-American will get the chance to compete for the open Jack spot this spring.
Right now I'd say Courtney Upshaw has the edge there but if Stinson can play well enough they may move Upshaw to Sam where he played extensively last year as well.
Jonathan Atchinson 6' 2” 235 was only a three star recruit but as you know that means exactly Jack Squat to Nick Saban and his staff. Atchinson gained significant muscle mass during his first summer in Tuscaloosa and may be a surprise player for 2010.
Sitting on the sidelines while their teammates went undefeated and won a National Championship must have been hard, but the wait is over for these Alabama players. Now is the time for them to make their mark.