Who are the ten Alabama Crimson Tide players you need to know? These are the key stars to watch out for.
Preview 2016: Alabama Crimson Tide Players You Need To Know
1. LB Reuben Foster, Sr.
Get ready for Foster to be the next superstar linebacker on the inside of the Alabama defense. The 6-1, 240-pounder didn’t necessarily take a backseat to Reggie Ragland last season, but he didn’t get the notoriety despite making 73 tackles and turning into a key factor in all phases for the defense. While Ragland was just okay in pass coverage, Foster can move a bit better and do more – he’s going to be drafted higher than Ragland was – and now the spotlight is on.
A leader who’ll have to be the veteran presence who’ll take over like all star Alabama interior linebackers end up doing, this can quickly become his defense. He should be in the NFL right now, but instead, he should be deep in the mix for the Butkus.
2. DE Jonathan Allen, Sr.
It was one of the nicer surprises of the Alabama offseason when Allen chose to come back to school for one more season. He had a late first round grade, but considering fellow linemen A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed slipped out of the first round, he might have made the right business decision if his goal is to be a top 15 pick.
A First Team All-SEC 3-4 end, the 6-3, 294-pounder was the type of pass rusher the Alabama defensive front three has been missing from its linemen cranking up 12 sacks and leading the way with 14.5 tackles for loss. While he doesn’t necessarily anchor the line, he’s good enough against the run making 36 tackles while stepping up in the biggest games. Like almost all starting Crimson Tide defensive linemen, he was a big-time recruit, and he played up to it last season. The only problem with coming back is the attention – he’ll have to be ready to be keyed on by all blocking schemes. He’s the main man in the rotation now.
3. WR Calvin Ridley, Soph.
Exactly what the team needed after losing Amari Cooper, the 6-1, 188-pound Ridley stepped up as a freshman and cranked out a team-leading 89 catches for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. He exploded on Georgia and Arkansas with 120 yards and 140, respectively, but it was his finishing kick to the regular season the proved to be the different, catching eight balls for 102 yards against Florida, and eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the CFP win over Michigan State. That helped set up everything for the national title game. Clemson focused on him, and O.J. Howard turned in a legendary performance.
This year, Ridley will get the ball in his hands more in a variety of ways. He wasn’t used too much as a runner, but the coaching staff will get creative to make sure his speed and shiftiness are utilized better. He’s a home run-hitting threat every time he touches the ball, and if the quarterback play is okay, he’ll come up with a massive year.
4. OT Cam Robinson, Jr.
The 6-6, 327-pound NFL left tackle has one more year before he turns into a top 15-caliber draft pick, if not top five. The nation’s top tackle recruit when he got away from LSU out of Louisiana in 2014, he’s got the perfect blend of six, athleticism, and power. The 6-6, 327-pounder might not have Laremy Tunsil’s feet, but he’s bigger, dances just fine against the speed rushers, and is a destructive force whenever he’s plowing away for the running game. He’s got the prototype size and skills, and this year is his chance to show it all off – there’s a chance he turns into the best offensive tackle prospect in the Nick Saban era if he builds on his First Team All-SEC 2015 season.
5. LB Tim Williams, Sr.
Get ready, America. If Williams has a season that’s anything like his offseason, and is anything like the Alabama spring game, he’s going to be the star on several college football Saturdays when everyone is watching the key SEC game of the week. At 6-4 and 237 pounds he’s a true tweener with defensive end skills on the outside, but the range and quickness to become more of a run-stopping outside linebacker. He only came up with 19 tackles last season, but there were other Crimson Tide defenders to handle the thump. Williams’ job was to get into the backfield, and he did that on a regular basis coming up with 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. Unblockable this spring, the coaching staff is about to turn him loose even more.
6. DE Da’Shawn Hand, Jr.
Considered by some to be the best recruit in the fantastic 2014 class, he hasn’t been able to play up to the part quite yet. He’s been okay in the rotation, but Alabama has had so much talent he didn’t get a chance to break through as a key starter. That changes this year after doing his part last season making 16 tackles with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss when he got his chances. A little bit lighter than some of the recent defensive tackle stars, the 6-4, 278-pound Hand is the ideal 3-technique tackle with power to go along with his lightning-quick first step. The only question is his back – he’s suffered a bit from back spasms this offseason, but all is supposedly okay. If he’s right, he’ll be an unblockable force at times now that he’ll get the starting nod.
7. TE O.J. Howard, Sr.
It was as if the Alabama coaching staff waited three years before showing what Howard could really do. With 6-6, 242-pound size, prototype athleticism, the right size, and excellent route-running ability, he’s what the NFL is looking for in a tight end. But he wasn’t used all that much in the passing game over the first part of his career, and was all but ignored at times throughout the 2015 season. And then came the national title and a five-catch, 208-yard, two-touchdown game that showed off all he’s able to do. Was that just an aberration, or can he crank up the production and be the main man on a regular basis? At the very least, he’s a fabulous decoy.
8. SS Eddie Jackson, Sr.
The safety had a good year finishing fifth on the team with 46 tackles while picking off six passes, taking two for touchdowns, highlighted by his National Championship Defensive MVP performance with three tackles and an interception. The former corner returned just fine from a knee injury to give the Crimson Tide defense more speed and athleticism at strong safety. While the 6-0, 194-pounder isn’t really a thumper, he’s a physical defender who can bring the pop when needed. Mostly, he’s terrific in pass coverage showing off good range and closing skills. He all but destroyed Texas A&M by himself with two picks, taking one for a score, and made seven tackles against Mississippi State. Best of all, this year he knows what he’s doing at the position.
9. CB Marlon Humphrey, Soph.
With free safety size and cornerback speed, the 6-1, 198-pound Humphrey has the versatility to play just about anywhere in the Alabama secondary. He showed off his physical nature with 45 tackles, but he’s a pass-covering corner making three picks and breaking up eight passes. Most importantly, he held his own after being thrown into a starting spot right away as a true freshman. The son of former Alabama star running back Bobby Humphrey, he’s got the track star wheels to go along with the size. With a year of starting experience under his belt, he should grow into one of the SEC’s best all-around defensive backs.
10. WR ArDarius Stewart, Jr.
His only problem last year was that he wasn’t Calvin Ridley. The team needed receivers to rock, and the 6-1, 204-pound Stewart did just that going from being a 12-catch afterthought in 2014 to making 63 grabs for 700 yards and four touchdowns. He might not be as dangerous as Ridley, but he did his part as the steady target coming up with eight catches against both Ole Miss and Auburn, while hitting Clemson for 63 yards on two key catches. More physical than explosive, he’ll make the tough grab and be more than just a nice safety valve.