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Alabama vs. Virginia Tech: 5 Freshmen That Will Make an Impact


Jan 5, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; East running back Derrick Henry (2) runs for a touchdown against the West during U.S. Army All-American Bowl high school football game at the Alamodome. The East won 15-8.  Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Alabama football coach Nick Saban released a two-deep depth chart. A total of 10 true freshmen made the list. Here’s a look at the players most likely to make an impact for Alabama against the Virginia Tech Hokies Saturday in Atlanta.

1. Derrick Henry

running back

The 6-foot-3, 238-pound freshman superstar running back enrolled in January to go through spring practice and is listed at the number four running back. However, the number two guy is Jalston Fowler, the number one fullback/H-back for the Crimson Tide.

Fowler will get carries, but not share as much of the load as past No. 2 backs. This will allow Henry to get time with the first team offense that he would not normally receive.

Henry won’t have to make a name for himself this weekend; he’s already a known commodity. He holds the most rushing yards for a high school career in the nation. He’s just looking to live up to the fans’ expectations.

2. O.J. Howard

tight end

Alabama fans celebrated the signing of O.J. Howard because of his size and abilities. He’s not the typical Alabama tight end. At 6-foot-6 and 237 pounds, he provides Alabama with a much bigger passing threat from the position than in years past.

Brian Vogler gets the nod as the number one spot at the tight end position, but Howard should get some playing time to relieve Vogler.

Howard’s size allows him to line up in the slot or split-wide if offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier wants.

Look for him to get a few catches in the game in order to build his confidence and experience for the 2013 season.

3. Cole Mazza

long snapper

Yes, the long snapper is third on the list. Mazza is the starting long snapper and replaces Carson Tinker.

The position does not seem to be of much importance in the grand scheme of things, but just wait until he snaps one over Cody Mandell’s head into the end zone. Then, the freshman will get plenty of criticism.

The best impact Mazza can make is to not be noticed at all. He will do himself quite the favor by not giving fans a reason to notice him.

4A. A’Shawn Robinson

defensive end

Any Alabama fans not familiar with the 6-foot-4, 320-pound mammoth will know him by the time the Georgia Dome scoreboard reads 0:00 Saturday night.

Recruiting services weren’t sure where to place Robinson. Some said as an offensive tackle. Others said the defensive line. The Alabama coaching staff chose the latter. Robinson took the number two spot at defensive end behind Ed Stinson. Will Dalvin Tomlinson (number two behind Jeoffrey Pagan at the other end position) play before Robinson? Very possible.

Even if Tomlinson does play behind Stinson, Robinson will get on the field Saturday night and make plays. He has the size to cause issues for an offensive line.

4B. Reuben Foster

mike linebacker

Trey DePriest’s one week suspension allowed Reuben Foster to get playing time with the starting defense. He clearly took advantage, becoming the clear number two behind DePriest. Foster, at 6-foot-1 and 244 pounds, is a natural football player. One can tell by watching his high school tape.

Foster will get plenty of playing time in at least one of two ways: defense or special teams. He fits the type of player a coach wants on kickoff coverage. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s mean.

Reuben Foster will play several minutes Saturday night and make the plays to warrant more playing time.