Alabama Football: Young players to provide late season depth

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

Alabama football has an abundance of youth. Who, among the talented youngsters, can contribute during a late-season run toward championships.

There are several ways to look at youth and the Alabama football roster. The most media attention has gone to the number of true freshmen starters. The number is seven now, including Will Reichard on special teams. Five freshmen are defensive starters after the LaBryan Ray injury. They are D. J. Dale, Justin Eboigbe, Shane Lee and Christian Harris. Jordan Battle is included when the Crimson Tide is using six defensive backs. The lone, true freshman starter on offense has been left guard, Evan Neal.

No Alabama football team coached by Nick Saban has ever depended so much on such youth. And the dependence does not stop with the starters. Against Ole Miss, the fifth defensive lineman to rotate in was true freshman, Byron Young. When Henry Ruggs missed time due to injury, his replacement in four-wide sets was true freshman, John Metchie. Against the Rebels, the third running back in the rotation was true freshman, Keilan Robinson.

There are other measurements. According to Phil Steele’s calculations, Alabama football is No. 12 in the SEC  in returning lettermen and No. 86 in the FBS in returning experience. A roster count shows 47 of the Crimson Tide’s 85 scholarship players are first or second-year players.

Alabama football coach, Nick Saban has long been a proponent of playing freshmen. Saban readily goes with the best player over more experienced and less talented players. Even so, injuries and early NFL entry have taken Saban’s roster philosophy to the extreme this season.

Many of today’s generation of players are physically capable of contributing as freshmen. The greater challenges are learning schemes and assignments, while also managing emotions. For most true freshmen, the learning curve is filled with mistakes.

Old-school coaches used to say the best thing about any freshmen, is when he becomes a sophomore. The saying is not totally untrue today.

Whether Alabama football fans like it or not, the Tide’s 2019 championship future may hinge on how many young and less experienced players can contribute against top teams.

Young Alabama football guys needing to mature fast

  • On the defensive line, Byron Young , Phidarian Mathis, Justin Eboigbe and Christian Barmore
  • On the offensive line, Evan Neal
  • In the secondary, Jordan Battle
  • At linebacker, Shane Lee, Christian Harris and Ale Kaho
  • At kicker and maybe punter, Will Reichard

None of the six true freshmen above will redshirt.

Future injuries could add John Metchie and Keilan Robinson to the key list. They too will not redshirt. Twenty of the true freshmen have played. A few are already special teams regulars. Of the remaining eight, maybe five to seven are likely to redshirt.

Should Alabama football fans fret over the planned, and at the same time, unplanned Crimson Tide youth movement? No – if for no other reason, fretting will accomplish nothing. Should annual championship aspirations be tamped? Absolutely not!

Next. Who is the Tide's best receiver?. dark

Whether or not the Tide’s relative inexperience proves to be a barrier to championships, it should never be offered as an excuse. In early October, the Alabama Crimson Tide is No.1 and it has an opportunity to be the same in January.