Alabama Football: 20 Player Surprises for 2018 – Part 2

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 19: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide watches action during the Alabama A-Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 19, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 19: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide watches action during the Alabama A-Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 19, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

With a roster laden with underclassmen, Alabama football may have some players who surprise with major contributions in 2018.

College football rosters have been trending younger for several years. Alabama football is no exception. Early NFL entry and frequent transfers result in teams having more freshmen and sophomores than juniors and seniors. In 2018, 53 of the 85 Crimson Tide scholarships will be used by underclassmen.

The post-spring, offseason lull is the perfect time to assess who among those 53, plus the two JUCO players and the graduate transfer, could have major roles at some point next fall. We have identified 20 players that could surprise. The surprise factor rules out several underclassmen that clearly will have major roles.

The players we excluded due to ‘no-surprise’ status are Dylan Moses, Najee Harris, Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III, Thomas Fletcher, Quinnen Williams and Skyler DeLong. We also excluded the volatile QB position from our list.

This review began with 10 players profiled from the sophomore class, including the JUCO transfers and the graduate transfer. Here is the first group of 10 players from Part 1 of this post.

The Second Group of 10

The redshirt freshmen

Joseph Bulovas – Placekicker. The perennial doubt that lurks for Alabama football fans is making pressure, field goals. Bulovas looked impressive during the A-Day game, making 5-of-7. BUT one of the misses carried with it more pressure than the others. He had a chance to hit a possible game-winning field goal and he missed. So … the nagging doubt lingers. Hopefully, either Bulovas or Austin Jones (who we listed in Part 1) will step up and consistently make pressure kicks.

Phidarian Mathis – Defensive tackle. Mathis came to Tuscaloosa needing to shed some weight and add some muscle. That effort has been successful and insiders report Mathis impressed on the scout team last season. A few observers said he was giving the starting offensive line problems toward the end of fall. He could be the replacement for Da’Ron Payne on the interior or at least rotate frequently to rest Quinnen Williams.

Kyriq McDonald – Defensive back. Kyriq has the physical tools to play multiple positions in the secondary. He is the type of headhunter defensive back who loves to hit. Kyriq has a good chance to be in the two-deep for Dime sets.

Tyrell Shavers – Wide receiver. Early the spring, Shavers took advantage of an opening caused by Jerry Jeudy’s injury. Unfortunately, he could not take full advantage due to a subsequent injury of his own. At 6-feet-6, Shavers came to Tuscaloosa last year in need of more bulk. He is listed at 213 pounds now and could still use a little more weight. He has the speed and the agility to become an offensive threat in the two-deep.

Chadarius Townsend – Wide receiver. Townsend is an explosive athlete who played QB in high school. His TD catch in the A-Day game showed speed and an ability to break tackles. He also has a shot at the two-deep in the fall.

The True Freshmen

Stephon Wynn and Christian Barmore Defensive line. Wynn was an early enrollee. Barmore will not arrive until June. It would be a big boost for the defensive line if either is able to contribute in 2018. Even with Wynn’s head start, Barmore may have the better chance. The buzz about Barmore suggests he could become a dominating physical presence similar to Marcel Dareus.

Eyabi Anoma – Defensive end. There is no doubt about Anoma’s potential. He could become an Alabama football great at rushing the passer. It will be interesting to see his weight after he reports in June. At 6-feet-5, 235 pounds is light for a defensive end. Some insiders have said he will be moved to linebacker. The former 5-Star can be an impact player either way. Most experts believe he is too good to keep off the field in 2018.

Jaylen Waddle – Wide receiver. Another player too good to keep off the field is Jaylen Waddle. He is a natural to be a star slot receiver. Most Alabama football fans expect him to earn his way onto the two-deep during fall camp. The other area where he could quickly excel is at kick returner. Waddle is mentioned as having comparable talent to David Palmer and Javier Arenas.

Patrick Surtain Jr. – Defensive back. Surtain is compared to Minkah Fitzpatrick for having the skills to play every position in the secondary. Early in the season, Saivion Smith and Trevon Diggs will probably start at corner. Either one could be beaten out by Surtain Jr. at some point in 2018.

Next: A mostly serious look at the toughest '18 opponents

In the two parts of this story are 20 young men who can become Crimson Tide stars. We expect it will happen sooner than later.