Returning Starters: 6
Key Departures: QB Jake Coker (Cardinals), Derrick Henry (Titans), Kenyan Drake (Dolphins), Richard Mullaney (Texans), Ryan Kelly (Colts), Dominick Jackson (Lions)
For the third year in a row, Alabama has not announced their starting Quarterback going into the season. It has been an intense competition between Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett, David Cornwell, and Jalen Hurts. The favorite going into the year has to be Cooper Bateman, last year’s backup. Nick Saban favors quarterbacks that do not turn the ball over and normally tends to go with the experienced quarterback.
If you base the decision on this trend, Bateman is the guy. This is Bateman’s best chance to win the starting job as a redshirt junior. He would have plenty of help around him as the lead guy to manage the Crimson Tide offense.
Barnett is an extremely talented guy with a good arm as well as mobility. He came to Alabama as a 5 star quarterback from California and was part of the competition last year. As a redshirt Freshman Barnett has to limit his turnovers if he wants to take the starting job. Barnett is the most likely to unseat Bateman as the starting quarterback.
The third returning player is David Cornwell. Cornwell has a very strong arm and was a highly touted recruit for Oklahoma. He is often forgotten about as a redshirt sophomore that has experienced falling in the depth chart. The talent is there it is just a question whether Cornwell will ever put it together at Alabama or if he will have to transfer somewhere else to see the field. Cornwell fell out of the competition after an injury in fall camp.
Newcomer: Jalen Hurts (Channelview, Texas) – Going into spring ball it looked as if Hurts was just a candidate for a redshirt year with no chance of playing. While a redshirt might be the case, Hurts made major strides in the spring and was one of the most impressive quarterbacks at A-Day.He is the most athletic of the quarterbacks and has a good arm as well. He even played scout team as Deshaun Watson before the National Championship game. Jalen Hurts has the look of a future starter and is a legit contender in this competition.
It is going to be Saban’s decision on whether he goes with the most experienced guy in Bateman, or takes a chance on starting talented Barnett or Hurts as freshman. Don’t right off Hurts, he has a legitimate shot at the starting job.
Most teams would struggle to replace a Heisman trophy winner, but Alabama has plenty of talented players to fill the void. This year Alabama should split the carries more than just relying on one workhorse running back. It starts with Bo Scarbrough, a talented redshirt sophomore from Tuscaloosa.
He is just as big of a running back as Derrick Henry at 6’2 240 pounds and has very good hands too. Scarbrough will get most of the carries in Alabama’s offense.
The second running back that will get carries in the offense is Damien Harris, the top running back recruit of 2015. He was the third running back last year behind Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake and ran well. With the extra year Harris should be a more experienced running back and be more productive. Another running back that could receive some carries is junior running back Derrick Gore. Gore is a walk on running back that has been a pleasant surprise during his time at Alabama.
Newcomers: B.J. Emmons (Morganton, NC) and Joshua Jacobs (Tulsa, OK) add quality depth right away. Jacobs was a late bloomer in high school and may not have a redshirt year due to the lack of running back depth. Emmons on the other hand was the top running back prospect in the 2016 class and will make a major impact right away.
Wide receiver is Alabama’s deepest and most talented position this year. It all starts with Calvin Ridley, the true sophomore and leading receiver for the Tide last year. Ridley will try to avoid a sophomore slump after his 1000 yard freshman season.
Look for him to be the top target for whoever steps in at quarterback.
The most forgotten player in the Tide’s receiving core is junior Robert Foster. He started last year as the number one wide receiver until his season was cut short due to injury. A bounce back season could be in the works for Foster and I predict he will finish the year as Alabama’s second leading receiver. The second leading receiver last year was ArDarius Stewart and he will continue to try to have success in the offense. Stewart had a slower start last season, however his breakout Tennessee game with a career high 88 yards lead to a strong finish. He will be a reliable target this year.
Cam Sims, Raheem Falkins, and Derek Kief are three huge targets that will be rotational players for the Tide’s offense. All three of these players are at least 6’4 and have received limited playing time in the past. Look for Cam Sims to possibly be a breakout candidate this year. Xavian Marks is a small, shifty running back/wide receiver that Lane Kiffin will move all over the field.
Newcomers: The newcomer that will contribute the most this year is graduate transfer from Bowling Green, Gehrig Dieter. Dieter had a huge season last season with 94 catches, 10 touchdowns and over 1000 yards receiving.
He led Bowling Green in receptions and was second in TDs and receiving yards to current New York Giant Roger Lewis. Dieter should have a role in this year’s offense, however it is yet to be seen how big of a role that will be with so many talented receivers. T.J. Simmons (Pinson, AL) will probably have a redshirt year. Trevon Diggs, brother of Minnesota Vikings Stefon Diggs, is being worked at both receiver and safety. Alabama may keep him at safety because it will be the best chance for Diggs to see the field.
This unit is obviously led by the top receiver in the National Championship, O.J. Howard. Howard has a rare combination of size and speed that has been underutilized by Alabama in the past.
Howard’s goal for his senior season will to have more of a consistent impact on the offense and not just a few great games. After Howard in the depth chart is sophomore Hale Hentges. Hentges saw the field as a freshman and has the making of Alabama’s future starting tight end. He is not only a reliable receiver, but a good blocker as well. The two other senior tight ends, Dakota Ball and Brandon Greene, will be mainly blocking tight ends for Alabama’s goal line and multiple tight end packages.
Newcomers: Miller Forristall (Cartersville, GA) enrolled early in January and performed nicely in the A-Day game. Due to the tight end receiving depth, Forristall may not have a redshirt year. Irvin Smith (New Orleans, LA) is another tight end that probably needs a redshirt year to develop so he is ready to contribute when Howard goes to the NFL.
Cam Robinson leads the group as a top NFL prospect for the 2016 season. Robinson will hold down the left tackle spot for the third straight year for the Crimson Tide.
At left guard it looks as though sophomore Lester Cotton will step in to a starting role for the first time this year. Cotton was a four-star recruit out of Tuscaloosa and is a rising star on the line. At center, the Tide will look to replace first round pick Ryan Kelly on the offensive line. Ross Pierschbacher started last year as a redshirt freshman at left guard and now is moving over to center. Pierschbacher was solid as freshman and will try to translate that success to the center position. Right guard is Alphonse Taylor’s job to lose after being in Nick Saban’s dog house because of a DUI. It is yet to be seen if he will be starting or if it will be Bradley Bozeman at the right guard position when the season opens in Dallas.
Newcomers: Jonah Williams (Folsom, CA) has been impressive since enrolling early in January and it looks like he will start the year at the right tackle position. Williams will most likely kick over to left tackle next year when Cam Robinson most likely bolts for the NFL. Chris Owens (Arlington, TX) and Deonte Brown (Decatur, AL) are both interior lineman that will most likely redshirt this year.
Returning Starters: 6
Key Departures: Jarran Reed (Seahawks), A’Shawn Robinson (Lions), D.J. Pettway (Saints), Darren Lake (49ers), Dillon Lee (Saints), Denzel Devall, Reggie Ragland (Bills), Cyrus Jones (Patriots), Geno Matias-Smith (Redskins), Jabriel Washington (Rams)
After being a strength of the 2015 National Championship team, the defensive line is still a talented bunch in 2016. The Crimson Tide will not have the depth they had with last year’s team, but the starters Jonathan Allen, Da’Shawn Hand, Darron Payne and Dalvin Tomlinson are a solid unit.
Jonathan Allen is a hybrid DE/DT that can win against offensive lineman in a variety of ways. The senior leads the line and will be a high draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. At the other defensive end spot is Da’Shawn Hand who was one of the top recruits of the 2014 class. Hand last year played in mostly just pass rush situations and finished the year with 3 sacks. This year Hand will look to be more of an every down type of player.
At defensive tackle Darron Payne will take on the torch passed down by Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson. He is athletically gifted and was named as one of Bruce Feldman’s top 20 freaks in college football. He was timed in the 40 at a 4.93 at 6’2 320 pounds. He also bench presses 500 pound.
This incredible combination of size and strength will show on the football field this fall for his sophomore season. Another talented defensive lineman is senior Dalvin Tomlinson. He led the defensive line last year with 6 pass breakups and added tremendous depth. This year look for him to take advantage of more of a consistent starting role in the defense. Junior Joshua Frazier and sophomore O.J. Smith will look to add quality depth along the defensive line.
Newcomers: Raekwon Davis (Meridian, MS) is an absolute monster at 6’7 318 pounds. Davis could be an instant impact player on the defensive line and will add depth for the Tide. Jamar King is a JUCO player out of California that will add depth to the defensive line. The last defensive tackle from junior college that Alabama got was Jarran Reed.
Tim Williams leads the outside linebacker unit and could end up being the most disruptive player on the Alabama defense. He finished last year strong with 7 sacks in his last 6 games as just a pass rush specialist.
This year, Williams will be more of an every down player as an Outside Linebacker/Defensive End combination. Ryan Anderson was a solid rotational player with 6 sacks last year and now will have a more prominent role with the defense. The senior will start as an outside linebacker.
The inside linebacker spot is loaded with talent with senior Reuben Foster and junior Shaun Dion Hamilton starting in the 3-4 defense.
Reuben Foster is more athletic than departed Reggie Ragland and could be a higher draft pick. He has dropped down to 225 pounds to be more explosive in Alabama’s defense. Hamilton had a few starts last year and will now try to be a main stay in the starting lineup.
Alabama has the most depth in the country when it comes to the linebacker position. Rashaan Evans can play both inside and outside linebacker. Last year he worked mainly as a pass rusher, but this offseason he has been working mainly with the inside linebackers. Look for him to be worked around on the linebacker core. Baseball/Football player Keith Holcombe will also look for more playing time in the 2016 season. He is a sophomore and should mainly contribute on special teams.
Newcomers: It all starts with Ben Davis (Gordo, AL) and Mack Wilson (Montgomery, AL), the two five star inside linebacker recruits for Alabama. Both could be early contributors on the defense and are future stars. The talent and depth at inside linebacker means they probably won’t start this year, but could be solid rotational players and special team contributors. Terrell Hall (Washington, D.C.) is an outside rush linebacker who has great size. He may not contribute right away, but at 6’5 247 pounds he could be a future potential edge rusher. Shawn Jennings (Dadeville, AL) is brothers with current Tide linebacker Anfernee Jennings. Shawn Jennings is a converted safety and is a probable redshirt candidate.
The Crimson Tide lost a great cornerback in Cyrus Jones, but Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick were two young breakout players as freshman. Now as sophomores, Humphrey and Fitzpatrick look to lead the cornerback unit that is very young. Humphrey is slotted as an outside cornerback and could have a decision on whether to go pro or not as a redshirt sophomore.
Fitzpatrick could be moved around on the defense, playing both the outside corner spot and the nickel “Star” position in Alabama’s defense. He is a versatile player that will be the key to the secondary. The two other returning corners that will compete for playing time is junior Anthony Averett and redshirt freshman Kendall Sheffield. Averett has a shot to beat out the newcomers for solid playing time this year. Kendall Sheffield is a former five star recruit that has all the athletic ability to be an eventual starter. However, he is still trying to become more natural at the position so he can use that athletic ability. He is probably still another year or two from being a starting corner.
Newcomers: It was a huge cornerback recruiting class as they had four commitments in the 2016 class. Shy Carter (Kentwood, LA) is the most likely to see early playing time as he has been a stand out performer in fall camp. Carter could take over as a starter this year and could be a future star. After Shy Carter is Jared Mayden (Sachse, TX), Aaron Robinson (Deerfield, FL), and Nigel Knott (Madison, MS). Mayden and Robinson have been mostly practicing with the second and third team defense and could see some playing time this year. Nigel Knott is recovering from an off season surgery and is a likely redshirt candidate.
Eddie Jackson leads the secondary after a 6 interception junior year season. He decided to come back for his senior season, turning down being a high round draft pick. Another great season would vault Jackson into being a first round pick. The question then turns to who will start opposite of Jackson.
Junior Tony Brown is making the transition to safety, but could have to sit out the first few games due to a NCAA suspension. After Tony Brown the battle looks to be down to sophomore Ronnie Harrison and junior Hootie Jones. Both are bigger safeties at 6’2 220 pounds. Ronnie Harrison saw action his freshman year and finished the season with 2 interceptions and started one game against Texas A&M. He was also a key contributor on special teams and should continue this role. Hootie Jones was a highly ranked recruit that has not got as much playing time over the past few years as his ranking would indicate. He will look to change that this year after only seeing the field last year in blowouts. Hootie will probably have to wait until his senior year for the starting safety spot. Deionte Thompson redshirted last year as a freshman and will probably be a special teams contributor.
Newcomer: The Crimson Tide did not have a safety commit in 2016. They do however have receiver/safety Trevon Diggs that will probably play safety this year due to the Crimson Tide’s depth at wide receiver.
Special Team Starters
Kicker: Adam Griffith, Senior
Punter: JK Scott, Junior
Long Snapper: Cole Mazza, Senior
Bottom Line: The Crimson Tide again go into the season with questions at the quarterback position. The running back and wide receiver position are extremely talented to help the transition for Bateman, Barnett or Hurts. The quarterbacks key role will be to not turn the ball over and let the defense and skill position guys lead the football team. Interior offensive line is a bit of a concern with Ryan Kelly gone, but Alabama has been recruiting highly ranked offensive lineman for the past few years to help fill the void. The defense is very talented again going into the season at all levels. Secondary and Linebacker have great depth and talent, but the defensive line has some depth concerns. Regardless, this defense should be one of the top ranked in the nation.
It will need the talent to compete with the tough completion of USC, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas A&M and LSU. Alabama making it through the tough SEC schedule without a loss is going to be hard and they most likely slip up with one of those games. The most likely loss will come against away opponents Tennessee or LSU. The Tide has the talent however to still be SEC and National Championship contenders.
Prediction: 11-1 (1st SEC)
RB Bo Scarbrough*, WR Robert Foster*, WR Gehrig Dieter, TE O.J. Howard, OT Cam Robinson*, OG Alphonse Taylor, DE Jonathan Allen, DE Da’Shawn Hand*, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, OLB Tim Williams, OLB Ryan Anderson, ILB Reuben Foster, CB Marlon Humphrey*, S Eddie Jackson, LS Cole Mazza