Alabama Football: Estimating roster value of upperclassmen

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

Alabama football survived the cycle of NFL early-entry and has an important core of seniors for leadership in the 2020 season.

In an era when eighth-graders receive FBS offers, it is easy to forget the value of mature rosters. Alabama football had one of the youngest FBS rosters last season. The Crimson Tide will be young again in 2020. Some of the younger players will have to assume leadership roles, particularly in certain position groups.

No matter how talented, younger players often need leadership provided by older teammates. Alabama football is fortunate to have 13 scholarship seniors (including redshirt seniors and graduates) in its 2020 roster.

The 2019 Alabama football defense suffered from a lack of experienced leadership. The most effective leader last season was Xavier McKinney. With McKinney choosing NFL early-entry, the Crimson Tide secondary will need to establish its new leader. Now junior, Patrick Surtain II will be the returning player with the most game experience. It is hard for a cornerback to be an on-field leader during games but Surtain can lead his teammates in practices and off the field.

The biggest leadership asset for the 2020 Crimson Tide comes from the return of redshirt junior, Dylan Moses. Moses will automatically assume his former role as leader of the defense. Moses can rely on leadership assistance from sixth-year senior, Josh McMillon. McMillon was expected to start next to Moses last season. Even if Josh rotates with some of the younger linebackers, his experience will be valuable. Another senior who can provide senior leadership among the linebacker group is Ben Davis.

The offensive line will be loaded with senior leaders. Alex Leatherwood returning for his senior season makes the 2020 O-line one of the best in the nation. Other seniors with considerable playing experience are Landon Dickerson, Deonte Brown and Chris Owens.

Running behind that powerful and seasoned offensive line group will be two more seniors, Najee Harris and Brian Robinson. Running back is a rotation position for the Crimson Tide. Harris and Robinson will share carries with a couple of younger backs but they can be counted on to lead by example. With the return of Harris, the Tide has one of the top backs in the nation.

The sole scholarship senior at wide receiver is Devonta Smith. Smith and Jaylen Waddle will be the mainstays in the Tide’s aerial attack. Having Smith around to tutor the younger guys will aid the development of the fifth and sixth receivers in the Tide rotation.

Two redshirt seniors will lead the tight end, position group. Miller Forristall has the most game experience but Tide coaches were quite happy with Giles Amos‘ development last season. The roster is a tad thin at the position and the returning seniors will need to remain healthy.

Leaders are needed on special teams as well. Senior long snapper, Thomas Fletcher will be a steadying influence.

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The 2019 team did not accomplish its goals, largely due to a lack of leadership. Even an immensely talented and hard-working 18 or 19-year old, cannot provide the knowledge and maturity of an older player. Teenagers facing 22 and 23-year old men is never a good match.