Alabama Football: The fastest risers among Tide freshmen

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
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Going back to the 2018 Signing Class it was claimed Nick Saban had lost his recruiting edge. The 2019 class is quickly disproving that premise.

When Nick Saban unveiled his first 2019 Alabama football depth chart it was loaded with freshmen. Since many players are still battling it out in the two-deep pecking order, the latest chart had lots of names listed.

Even with the abundance of names, to have 15 true freshmen listed is almost mind-boggling. Throw in the redshirt freshmen and the Alabama football depth chart is loaded with players who have no or little playing experience.

At another school, another coach in a rebuilding mode might have such a depth chart. But this is new for the Alabama Crimson Tide. We suspect it also rarely happens to teams who go 14-1 in a preceding season.

No, Nick Saban is not panicking after losing a national championship game. The Alabama football coach has long believed the best players should play, even if they are summer enrolling freshmen.

But it takes special players to step into key roles so quickly. And it takes a coaching staff willing to suffer some growing pains. The 2019 Alabama football schedule allows Nick Saban to play the long game. South Carolina should not be ignored and going to College Station in mid-October offers plenty of challenge. Southern Miss is a better team than many Alabama football fans realize. Still, until November, the schedule allows for ample on-the-job training for Crimson Tide freshmen.

Bama Hammer will carefully follow the development of the ’19 class throughout the season. There will be some ebb and flow as players rise and slip back. Going into week one, we believe there are six freshmen most likely to make the most positive impact this season. The six are Will Reichard, D.J. Dale, Christian Harris, Evan Neal, Justin Eboigbe and John Metchie.

Four of the six might start against the Duke Blue Devils.

Will Reichard – Placekicker

Reichard could have a huge impact in 2019 with his strong leg and consistent accuracy. He is the best Alabama Crimson Tide placekicker prospect in many years. He could also win the starting punter role.

D. J. Dale – Nose Guard – Defensive Tackle

An immediate replacement for Quinnen Williams was not expected in 2019. Dale has blown past that lack of expectation. He is not Q and will not be as good as Q as a freshman, but when healthy, he is good and potentially very good.

Christian Harris – Inside Linebacker

Harris is big and fast, two attributes well suite to linebacking duties. Nick Saban says the youngster is an aggressive player. He will make mistakes as he learns but by the season’s second half, Harris could be solid.

Evan Neal – Guard

Many Alabama football fans believe Neal will start at left tackle next season. Until then he may start at guard. He is big, physical and already has power and quickness. Probably only injury can stop him from All-American honors in his Crimson Tide career.

Justin Eboigbe – Defensive End

Eboigbe has an injured foot and is questionable for Duke. He should recover quickly enough for game two. He already has an upper classmen’s body. Look for him to be a key member of the Tide’s d-line rotation.

John Metchie – Wide Receiver

Even with the depth the Crimson Tide enjoys at wideout, Metchie stood out in the spring game. He is far better than his recruit rankings portrayed him. He may not get many snaps behind the best quartet of wide receivers in college football, but he has a bright future.

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Other freshmen, who could also make strong impacts are Shane Lee, Keilan Robinson, Jordan Battle, DeMarcco Hellams and King Mwikuta.