19 September 2008
With 25% of the season now in the books, it's time to take a look at the members of the #1 ranked 2008 recruiting class and see how they've fared. We'll also take a guess as to what we might see the rest of the year from some of them.
It didn't take long for Mark to make an impact, with a huge hit on special teams early in the Clemson game. He is a part of Bama's kick off coverage, and an integral part at that. He is a right side gunner on the kick coverage unit that kicks the ball primarily to the right side. You will typically see him running right along side Alabama's two best kick coverage guys, Chris Rogers and Roy Upchurch. He ran right by CJ Spiller on his long touchdown return in the season opener, but otherwise has been very solid on this unit.
He has also seen action at defensive back in all three games. In the first and third weeks he saw action at the safety position once the Tide decided to play a few extra guys in the fourth quarter. Against Tulane he got time at the star position with the first unit after Javier Arenas was injured.
So far he looks very solid in rush defense, but has struggled a little in pass coverage. Considering that he closed his high school career at linebacker this isn't much of a shock. He has the best secondary coaches in the country (Nick Saban and Kirby Smart) to help shore up that part of his game, and looks like he will be a very good collegiate safety.
Season Stats: 6 tackles
He's currently listed at #4 on the depth chart at left defensive end and has yet to see the field. Unless injury depletes the position, expect him to use 2008 as a redshirt year.
John Michael Boswell
Word came down on Monday of last week that Alabama's true freshmen linemen might get a chance to play against WKU. The coaching staff was not pleased with the offensive line play against Tulane, and they wanted to see what some other guys could do.
John Michael was the first of the group to see action, actually subbing in at right tackle for Drew Davis mid way through the second quarter. He played the rest of the game at right tackle and showed tremendous promise. He doesn't yet have the raw power as a run blocker that Davis has, so he's not quite ready to take over at the position. He does, however, have impressive pass blocking technique and could be the future at the position.
What is there to say about the big fellow that hasn't already been said? He'll get his true test against Arkansas when he matches up against the nation's best center Jonathan Luigs, but the three previous centers were helpless against him. He isn't the sole reason that Alabama leads the nation in run defense, but he is a large part of it. Teams have very quickly given up on the idea of running up the middle, with Terrence not just clogging the middle rushing lanes, but collapsing them completely.
Season stats: 10 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss of 6 yards, 1 forced and recovered fumble, 1 QB hurry
About half way through fall camp it looked as though Marcel might be the chief backup at right defensive end. His combination of strength and power make him a natural for that end position in Nick Saban's 3-4 defense. Sometimes things happen that are beyond the control of a player, and Luther Davis deciding to become a factor on Bama's defense again falls into that category.
Marcel has seen time in two of the Tide's three wins, but that time has come behind both starter Brandon Deaderick and Davis. He has yet to record a tackle in his brief time on the field, but has shown a great understanding of the "gap control" assignments.
Season stats: 1 QB hurry
With action in all three games Robby is proof that proper technique and solid high school coaching can go a long way towards getting a freshman on the field early. Lots of folks had written him off as too small, and not as talented as Alonzo Lawrence. But Robby showed up from day one ready to play mentally, and that has allowed him to see the field early.
His time has been limited in all three games, so there are no stats to give you. But don't be surprised to see his role expand as the season progresses and he learns to trust his physical tools more.
He's currently listed at #5 on the depth chart at jack linebacker and has yet to see the field. It's a new position for him, and a complex one to learn. It's almost certain that he'll redshirt in 2008.
Jerrell has been a victim of circumstance so far in his Alabama career. The Tide so thoroughly dominated the time of possession battle in its wins over Clemson and Western Kentucky that there were just not many opportunities for reserve defensive players. Coach Saban mentioned him specifically as someone that he wanted to see play in the fourth quarter against WKU, but the Alabama defense only had three plays in the quarter. Not to mention the fact that Bama played virtually the entire game in nickel and dime defense, which meant that the sam linebacker was barely on the field.
He is one of only a handful of guys that still have the "or" by their name in my depth chart. Both he and Chavis Williams are still clearly behind Cory Reamer at the sam linebacker, but neither guy is the established back up. Williams might be Bama's best pass rusher, but lacks the overall physicality to be a good run stopper. Harris is the exact opposite right now, solid against the run, but lacks the experience to be an effective pass rusher. So these two guys will be situationally substituted until one of them establishes himself.
He's still looking for his first tackle, but don't expect that to take too much longer. He is a real talent and only the fact that Reamer has been outstanding at the sam has kept him off from getting more time.
For the second straight season Bama has started a true freshman at middle linebacker. And for the second straight year that position was more less handed to the freshman because Prince Hall was suspended. It's possibly that Don'ta would have beaten out the oft-troubled Hall anyway, the same way that McClain might have beaten him. Regardless, both guys got the start in their respective career openers, and they make an imposing pair in the middle.
A look at the stat sheet shows Don'ta fifth on the team in tackles, impressive for a guy through his first three career games. At times he has looked to be one of Bama's better defenders, like the Tulane game where he racked up ten tackles. At other times he has looked like a true freshman, struggling to complete his assignments, taking bad angles, missing guys in coverage.
That is to be expect, though, because he is, after all, a true freshman. Much like with McClain a year ago, you take the bad with the good because, as the season goes on, the good will begin to far out-weigh the bad. Hall's return will likely help him, because he won't have quite as much responsibility. Again, like with McClain last year. it might mean smaller numbers on the stat sheet. But, hopefully like McClain, it will help him grow into the position mentally and physically, and we will see him close out this season with same time of reckless abandon that McClain closed out 2007.
Season stats: 12 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.
It would not be a stretch to say that Mark has been Bama's best offensive skill player. Technically Glen Coffee has rushed for more yards, though his one 51 yard carry skews that considerably. With an average of 5.7 yards per carry and a team leading three touchdowns, Mark has had an outstanding beginning to his college career.
He's been especially tough near the goal line, where he has proven difficult to bring down on the first hit. He appears to be the answer to the "tough yards" problem that Bama has had since Kenneth Darby's junior year. As the season goes on expect to see Mark get more opportunities, though it is doubtful that any one back will become the "featured back" in Alabama's offense.
Season stats: 37 carries, 210 yards, 3 TDs - 3 receptions, 12 yards
He has played in all three Tide games, though almost all of his action has come on special teams. He did log a few snaps at receiver late in the WKU, but did not catch a pass.
He isn't just a body on special teams, though. He is on Bama's right side kick coverage with Mark Barron, Roy Upchurch, Chris Rogers, and Courtney Upshaw. That is where almost all of Leigh Tiffin's kicks have gone, and Chris has done a great job of wedge busting.
Season stats: 2 tackles
With Thomas Darrah having played ahead of him in the WKU game it seems an almost certainty that he will redshirt in 2008. While Darrah is currently ahead of him on the depth chart, if injuries put Bama in a position where they have to use a third quarterback to try to win a game, look for Star to probably make the jump to that spot.
He got late action in the WKU game at guard. The coaches are still trying to figure out what his best position will be, having practiced him at guard, tackle, and center. Don't be surprised to see him try a different position if Bama gets a big lead at some point later in the season.
It would probably be impossible for any player to live up to the preseasone expectations laid upon Julio, but he's done a great job of coming close. He is second on the team in receptions, first in yards, and tied for first in touchdowns. At his current pace he'll close the season with 40 receptions for 428 yards and eight touchdowns. That would probably be enough to give him consideration as a freshman all-american.
With the way that Alabama's offense spreads the ball around I don't think we'll see very many opportunities for 10+ reception games like DJ Hall frequently had in the past two years. If anyone does get that chance it will be Julio, though. As he and John Parker Wilson develop more rhythm, expect those projected numbers to be exceeded. The fact that Bama's first pass play of the season was a designed screen for him should tell you what the coaches think.
Season stats: 10 receptions, 107 yards, 2 TDs
A late move to linebacker seemed as though it might signal a redshirt. With Prince Hall out for the first two games Bama's depth at the will linebacker was such that he actually played in the first week. He didn't see much action, just enough to get his feet wet. It's hard to guess what the situation will be with him, considering how little time he had at the position in fall camp. The fact that he immediately climbed the depth chart, with or without Hall, demonstrates his potential here. If he's going to make a large contribution it will likely come later in the season.
While he has all of the physical tools he lacks technique. His high school coach blamed that on the fact that they did not have time to teach him the game, and just let him use his natural skills. He is physically gifted enough that he could see action late in the year, but unless something major happens, expect him to redshirt in 2008.
The safety position is a deep one for Bama right now, so there just isn't playing time available. There was some thought that he might get an early look on special teams, but that hasn't happened yet. He did get a look early in fall camp at corner before being moved back to safety. Expect a redshirt in 2008.
A late summer leg injury set him back a little at the beginning of fall camp, so any thoughts of him challenging for starting time went out the window. He's getting almost all of his practice looks, and his one game action vs. WKU behind Andre Smith at left tackle. It looks like he is being prepared to take over for Andre if he decides to leave for the NFL after this season. If that is the case, expect to see him get snaps any time that Bama gets a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter.
With running back being a position of great depth for the Tide it was unlikely heading into the season that more than one true freshman running back would see action. Jermaine Preyear delayed enrollment to let a shoulder injury heal and Mark Ingram has jumped to the top of Bama's statistical chart. That leaves Matchett as the lone man out. With the way that Nick Saban likes to use a stable of running backs I expect him to get a solid look in the spring with an eye towards getting in the rotation next year. This year? Expect a redshirt.
It is very, very likely that he is taking advantage of the Bryant Scholarship. If that is the case then he can not play for two years without counting towards this class. With that being the case, and the fact that safety is a position of great depth, it is an almost certainty that he will redshirt in 2008.
There have actually been on-line conversations in recent days about B.J. being a disappointment. He was such an electrifying athlete in high school that I think people completely forgot about the fact that he is learning a new position at the college level - something horribly difficult to do.
He's had just a handful of balls thrown his way, though he has played in all three games. He had a reception in the Clemson game, a screen pass that had no blocking and went for no gain. As he continues to adjust to the receiver position expect to see the Tide offense figure out ways to get the ball in his hands.
Season stats: 1 reception, 0 yards
While he has made the transition from quarterback to tight end extremely well, the Tide is just too deep at the position for him to play this year. Bama loses two seniors after this season, so next year will be the year for him. Don't be shocked if he is Bama's leading receiver among TEs in 2009. But 2008 will be a redshirt year.
It wasn't exactly a great start to the young man's career. He missed an extra point, followed that with a kick off out of bounds, then bounced a FG attempt off of the upright. He looked completely and totally lost, and that's not something that you want to see out of a kick, much less one that is on scholarship.
With the Arkansas game tomorrow, it's not difficult to be reminded of how awful Leigh Tiffin looked in his first game action two years ago in Fayetteville. Some times players take a little longer to be ready, and the idea of giving up on Corey after one bad game is as silly as the same idea was with Tiffin two years ago.
Season stats: 0-1 PAT, 0-1 FG
It looked like he might work his way into the rotation at nose guard, but it hasn't happened yet. If a guy hasn't seen the field through three weeks the coaches start looking at a redshirt heavily, and the fact that Nick Gentry has moved from end to nose guard tells me that Square has been identified as a candidate for redshirt.
After Bama struggled with kick off coverage in the season opener Courtney was added to the kick coverage unit. It took him a week of action to get his bearings straight, but he had a coming out party against WKU. He racked up tackles on each of the first two kicks for Bama, and added another in the 2nd quarter. He's a part of Bama's solid right side time.
He also got his first real action at linebacker, and added another three tackles. Throw in a QB pressure and a tackle for a loss and it was quite a debut for a guy that might very well develop into a real play maker at the jack position. As he continues to learn the game, and the position, expect him to get more playing time. Both Brandon Fanney and Eryk Anders are solid, if not spectacular, but Upshaw provides a different type of explosiveness.
Season stats: 6 tackles, 1 for a loss of 1 yard, 1 QB hurry
There were a lot of questions as to whether he would end up at tight end or defensive end heading into fall camp. So, of course, he ended up at linebacker. He's got the prototype build and athleticism for the jack linebacker, but he needs time to learn the position. He's at #5 at the position along with Harbin and will almost certainly redshirt.