Outside the frenzy over 5-Star phenoms, lesser-known players often develop into key Alabama football players. Here are a few examples for 2018.
In a microwave paced society, patience is undervalued. Players who do not start in one or two seasons are labeled ‘busts’ – often unfairly. Fortunately for Alabama football, more than a few players commit themselves to a development process that may take years for success.
2017, 5th-year senior, Anthony Averett is a good example. Averett was a 4-Star prospect coming out of high school. During his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa, he saw action in only six games, all on special teams. His Alabama football stats after three years were two tackles. From that slow-build, Anthony became arguably the Tide’s best cornerback during his junior and senior seasons. Next fall he will be playing in the NFL.
Bradley Bozeman and Levi Wallace had similar Crimson Tide careers requiring hard work and delayed gratification. Bozeman was a 3-Star recruit who also had to wait until his fourth season in Tuscaloosa for significant playing time.
Levi Wallace was a Zero-Star recruit. With no FBS offers, he became an Alabama football walk-on. Check out the story of Levi’s path to Tuscaloosa through his father’s past. It is fair to say that without Levi Wallace, Alabama football would have never achieved a 17th national championship.
Other Alabama football ‘late-bloomers’ had key roles in the 17th national championship. The Crimson Tide also needed J.C. Hassanauer’s and Andy Pappanastos’ contributions in 2017 to win a title.
Who steps up big in 2018
In 2018, three 5th-year seniors are expected to play key roles: Ross Piersbacher; Christian Miller and graduate transfer, place-kicker, Austin Jones. Piersbacher and Miller are important players but Jones is the most important of the three. The Tide has multiple offensive line and outside linebacker options. Jones is the only proven field goal kicker.
5th-year seniors, Jamey Mosley and Keith Holcombe will continue to be at least important backups in 2018. Josh Casher, Ronnie Clark and Derek Kief will get a chance to make bigger contributions in their fifth and final seasons.
Along with Austin Jones, another 5th-year senior will be essential to Tide success in 2018. Defensive lineman, Johnny Dwight must become a solid contributor in a rotational role. The Tide does not have enough defensive line depth without him becoming a key player.
Dwight has only appeared in seven games during four years in Tuscaloosa. He will be needed for every game in 2018. There is are reasons to believe he can step up. Last spring, he shared the Billy Neighbors, Defensive Lineman award of spring camp with Da’Ron Payne. Dwight was a 4-Star recruit who played in only one game in his first three seasons. In six games last season, he made nine tackles, with 3.5 of those tackles for losses.
Players waiting their turn is a mainstay for Alabama football. Nick Saban has no reluctance to play true freshmen. But his ability to instill patience and dedication for many players to gradually develop is essential to the program.