Five Incoming Alabama Football Players To Watch in 2014


Everyone is lining up to tell you all about the top five incoming players to watch this season.  In any order, the lists are mostly the same – Jake Coker, Da’Shawn Hand, Rashaan Evans, Cameron Robinson, and Tony Brown.

Of course that’s the top list.  Those are outstanding football players each possessing the promise of greatness.  Heck, in our preseason guide we even step through how each will earn starting roles within Alabama’s varied offensive and defensive schemes.

However, the real challenge is in identifying that next group who will carve out for themselves contributing roles within the rotation.  These players may lack the top-end buzz, but they will play no small part in charting the course for this team.

Jarran Reed – Nose Guard

This may actually be the easiest selection on the entire roster, including Coker, in terms of identifying the convergence of opportunity and ability.  First, Alabama rotates so many players along the defensive front and second, the Crimson Tide are so lacking at the position.

Dominant nose guards are not groomed as much as they are unearthed, so it’s not uncommon to find them within the JUCO ranks – think Cody and Jessie Williams.  That Reed has followed a similar path is par for the course.

Look for Jarran to play early and watch to see how effective he is in drawing double teams.  In contrast to what most expect, the better Jarran is at his job, the less you will hear about him.  If the middle linebackers start turning in monster tackle numbers, look to see if big number 90 is lining up in front of them.

DJ Pettway – Defensive End

Pettway is making the rare return appearance to the Capstone.  Dismissed for disciplinary reasons nearly 18 months ago, he has earned the right to return to finish his collegiate career at Alabama.  If there’s a player on the roster most appreciative of the privilege to suit up each week, it should be him.

You may find him listed as a LB rather than DE, and that’s ok.  It’s the nature of the Jack position.  In either case, you are likely to find him on the field more easily than in the program.

In A-Day he was credited with an interception for a touchdown.  But what the stat line doesn’t tell is that the play came on an inside screen that Pettway was able to sniff out.  The rest was just poor decision making by the QB.  His combination of personal resolve and football savvy make for a dangerous football player.

*no small bit of irony that Jarran and DJ were teammates last year at East Mississippi CC

Dominick Jackson – Offensive Guard

The nation’s top-rated JUCO lineman will create a role for himself, even if he’s unable to find an existing opening just right for him.  The 2014 line features two job openings with the departures of Cyrus Kouandijo and Anthony Steen.  Perhaps Jackson backfills one of these opportunities, or perhaps he unseats an incumbent.  In either case, we’re projecting starter status for Jackson.

Ty Fournoy-Smith – Tight End

There appears to be an unintentional trend emerging, as yet another JUCO makes the list.  Hey, there’s a reason Saban brings these guys in, so we can’t help it.

Fournoy-Smith is actually an intriguing signee, as there appears to be no immediate need at the TE position, unless Alabama plans to immediately elevate the position within the offense.  Perhaps an early signal as to Kiffin’s impact?

At Georgia Military, Fournoy-Smith reeled in only six receptions, but five of them went for touchdowns.  Without breaking down game film, that suggests his value as a blocker between the 20s and his sure-handedness in the red zone; a classic skillset for a tight end.

If such is true, look for Alabama to deploy him similarly to how they’ve used Michael Williams in the past.

J.K. Scott – Punter

This is the selection that suggests I’m punking the readers, but stick with me.  Gone to NFL training camp is last year’s punter Cody Mandel.  In his absence, Alec Morris was conscripted into a full time punting role in the spring.  While playing a punter on TV, Alec managed to average just over 38 yards per punt – or nearly 10 yards less than Mandel did last season.  That is what we call an opportunity.

During his high school career, Scott worked with nationally-renowned kicking coach Chris Sailor, who has openly called Scott the most talented Kicker/Punter in the 2014 recruiting class.  Which starts to sound like the level of talent required to address Alabama’s needs.

Given Saban’s emphasis on drive start and making opposing offenses work for every yard, if Scott’s talent approaches what has been advertised, he is likely to step into a starting role.

Want more analysis of the Alabama roster? Download our 2014 Alabama Football Viewing Guide.