30 June 2008
One of a number of sleeper prospects signed by Mike Shula and his staff, Sam played a role on special teams in 2006, logging 9 tackles in 11 games as a freshman. That playing time dropped significantly in 2007, with appearances in only 3 games.
That tends to happen when coaching changes happen. Some players that fit a particular style of play don’t necessarily fit a new style. It is these types of players that you typically see transfer under the new coach – Tremayne Coger and Zach Schreiber are examples of guys who have transferred since Nick Saban was hired.
As I’ve said in several of these profiles, it is not unusual for a player to take 2 or 3 years to fully develop into their roles and command playing time. Typically that happens on extremely deep and veteran laden teams, and Bama has been anything but that on defense for the past 2 seasons.
2008 Prospectus: The fact that Sam has struggled to make an impact on the depth chart through 2 full seasons and a spring practice, despite playing at a position (free safety) where the Tide is not deep, does not bode well for his chances of earning playing time.
A player with Sam’s skill set would likely have begun to at least crack the depth chart under the previous coaching staff. The problem for some of those “sleeper prospects” is that the level of talent now being brought in by Nick Saban makes that more and more difficult.
The arrival of guys like Robert Lester and Mark Barron adds quality depth to the safety positions, making it harder for a blue-collar type of player to earn playing time. When that is combined with the emergence of a guy like Rashad Johnson, it just makes it that much more difficult.
I don’t mind being negative when it comes to someone like Jimmy Johns that has all of the physical tools in the world and is unwilling to commit himself to taking advantage of them. But I have a hard time trashing a player that works his butt off and just simply isn’t physically gifted enough to play in the SEC.
Sam is one of several players currently on the team that do not appear to have SEC type talent. He can certainly still provide quality leadership, and can be a valuable part of helping his team prepare as a part of the scout team. Barring a massive improvement or a major injury, that is probably the most that can be hoped for.
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