As the Alabama Crimson Tide closes the book on yet another successful football season, it is never too early to look at what is in store in the future.
While stars such as AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley move on, Alabama football will bring back plenty of talent in 2014. We all know the names T.J. Yeldon, Amari Cooper, and Landon Collins. We also know the contributions that freshmen A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, and OJ Howard have made this year. But who will be added to this list of household names? Below are 10 underclassmen (as of now) who you will be talking about at the end of 2014.
It’s only a matter of time before Black makes a huge impact in a meaningful game. Keep in mind that in the 2012 preseason, he was hyped even more than Amari Cooper, and there was thought that his redshirt would be burned in the SEC Championship last year. In limited time this year, he showed fans flashes of explosiveness.
Due to coming in late and because there was so much talent in front of him, Foster never saw the field in 2013. That does not mean he is not good. The rangy receiver will see the field a great deal in 2014, and his combination of size and speed will threaten SEC defenses. Many may have missed this, but late in the game against Tennessee, Gary Danielson of CBS singled out Foster as being the next “great one” after seeing him in practice.
Another highly touted recruit, Foster saw limited action this year. He played though, which is a testament to how the coaches view him. His role will expand dramatically next year with Mosley graduating. In a rare media appearance, Kirby Smart pointed to Foster’s growth during bowl practice.
Another guy mentioned by Smart was Lee, who has seen the field in a backup role the past two years. He has also been a mainstay in special teams. Lee will be a junior next year, and the success of the linebacker corps will partly depend on how he progresses in the offseason.
With spots opening up at wide receiver, Falkins will have his shot to crack the rotation. In preseason camp, everyone raved about Falkins, including AJ McCarron. While that did not translate into playing time this year, it is safe to say he will be counted on in a big way in 2014.
The freshman from Huntsville garnered playing time this year, and some thought he was one of the Crimson Tide’s six or seven best offensive linemen. Hill has explosive power, and he is athletic for his size. The offensive line will have openings after the departure of Anthony Steen, and likely departure of Cyrus Koundajio. Hill will definitely be in the mix for a starting spot.
A virtual starter this year, Tomlinson went down with a season-ending knee injury against Virginia Tech. He was poised to be an integral part of the rotation at defensive line, and Coach Saban often mentioned that losing him was a key loss to the defense as a whole. Provided his rehab goes well, he will be a large contributor in 2014.
Coming out of high school, Liner was thought to have the most potential out of anyone in Alabama’s signing class. However, experts pointed to his propensity to take off plays as a weakness in his game. We do not know if this will be an issue, but one thing is for sure, he will be counted on next year to provide depth along the defensive line. If he does tap into his potential, a star will be born.
Yes, he played a great deal this year, but many fans have wondered why he has not played more. Jackson played extremely well in his first career start against Ole Miss, however he did not see the field very much after that game. Given the issues at the second cornerback spot, many were surprised he did not see more action. It looks like he will be starting again this week in the Sugar Bowl, and going forward, he will be counted on in the secondary with the departure of Deion Belue.
The best may be saved for last. Henry broke all sorts of national high school records. He was expected to see extensive playing time this year, but the combination of an injury in spring practice and difficulty picking up the nuances of the offense led to more of a reserve role. Henry did show flashes of brilliance, including his 80-yard run against Arkansas. All indications are that he has practiced very well, and he may even be the number two running back against Oklahoma.