Alabama Football: Five redshirt freshmen who could step up in ’18

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Alabama football 2017 signing class was loaded with talent. Five redshirt freshmen from that class could see key roles in 2018.

Freshmen redshirting during their first Alabama football season does not happen frequently with Nick Saban. Any physically and mentally mature true freshman who can fill a need is played by Saban. In the 2017 signing class, only nine players did not see game action.

It is a mistake to assume those nine are not good players. Redshirt seasons still benefit many Alabama football players. Brad Bozeman and Anthony Averett are two examples. They simply needed more time to develop and are now headed to the NFL.

Five now redshirt freshmen could play meaningful roles for the Crimson Tide in 2018. At least a couple of them could earn two-deep roles on offense or defense. The others can have key special teams roles.

Phidarian Mathis – Defensive Line

Mathis arrived in Tuscaloosa needing to shed some bad weight. At 6-feet-4 and 308 pounds, weight is no longer an issue. Insiders report Mathis did well in practice settings and could have played last season if he had been needed. He is no Da’Ron Payne in terms of speed and quickness but he is hard to block. He is expected to be in the rotation as an interior defensive lineman this fall.

Tyrell Shavers – Wide Receiver

Shavers needed the extra year to add weight to his 6-feet-6 frame. He is up to 213 pounds and may reach 220 by fall. He is an athletic guy who would cause some matchup issues for shorter defensive backs. His route-running may need some polishing. The trio of sophomore wideouts, Ruggs III, Jeudy and Smith will seamlessly become starters but Shavers could earn a role in the six-man rotation of receivers.

Markail Benton – Linebacker

Benton has a good chance to earn a spot in the two-deep at inside linebacker. He has good speed and size at 6-feet-2 and 233 pounds. Dylan Moses was the only reason Benton did not see the field last season.

Chadarius Townsend – Wide Receiver

Townsend is a talented athlete who played quarterback in high school. He also has running back skills. He may not break into the two-deep at wideout in 2018 but will certainly have a role on special teams.

Kyriq McDonald – Defensive Back

There are five open starting slots in the 2018 defensive backfield. McDonald will compete for them and stands a good chance to make the two-deep at Star or Safety. He was impressive in the A-Day game last year, making four tackles and an interception.

He also gained some notoriety after collapsing on the sideline during the national championship game. The sudden collapse was caused by dehydration stemming from a bout with pneumonia.

These five players will face tough competition in carving out roles for themselves. We believe each one has a good chance to step up as a key player in 2018.

Next: 30 Great Tide Players who were 3-Star Recruits

Prior to the start of spring practice, we will also review several true freshmen and sophomores who could challenge for two-deep roles in 2018. Spring practice begins for the Tide on March 20th.