Alabama Football: Crimson Tide freshmen proving nay-sayers wrong


Every Alabama football recruiting cycle, other teams claim freshmen have no chance to play for Nick Saban.

The greatest fallacy about Alabama football is that incoming freshmen have little chance to play. Every recruiting cycle coaches from other programs tell elite recruits if they sign with the Tide, forget about playing as freshmen.

The reality is Nick Saban will always choose his best players for key or starting roles. Saban is as willing to play a true freshman as he is to play a fifth-year senior.

The Alabama Football – Nick Saban era includes many true freshmen either part of a regular rotation or earning starter roles. A partial list is made up of Rolando, McClain, Julio Jones, C.J. Mosley, Jonah Williams, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, Patrick Surtain II and Evan Neal.

While the players listed above had strong freshmen campaigns, unusual circumstances require some players to compete before they are ready. That happened last season with linebackers, Shane Lee and Christian Harris. The young duo was pressed into action requiring more skill than they possessed as freshmen.

Recruits, especially those considered elite, rarely doubt their ability to be first-year starters. Many of them are sure they will be All-SEC, All-American, even Heisman Trophy winners one year beyond being high school stars. Selling a starting slot as a freshman has lured top recruits to Auburn, Georgia, LSU and many other schools. Even being a first-year starter on a middle or lower tier SEC team appeals to some young men.

In the face of such recruiting competition, Nick Saban never wavers. Starting jobs and other key roles must be won by an Alabama Crimson Tide player. There are no shortcuts to quick success. No matter how much recruiting success Kirby Smart and other coaches have making player promises, Saban will not change.

It is especially difficult for true freshmen (except the injury exception of the 1019 season) to earn starting roles in a Nick Saban defense. Saban’s defense is complicated and very, very few players learn it quickly. For most, it takes at least a full season, including an early enroll and spring practice.

The 2020 Alabama football defense has a pair of true freshmen starters beating those early playing times odds. They are Malachi Moore and Will Anderson. Moore, having now played 410 snaps, is standing out as a dependable member of the secondary and capable of making big plays.

Outside linebacker, Will Anderson has played 296 snaps. To some Crimson Tide fans, Anderson has not lived up to advance billing. Optimism about his Tide future led some to compare him to Derrick Thomas. That is an unfair comparison. Though not DT, Anderson has played well and some of it has gone unnoticed. The Crimson Tide defense is not producing many sacks, making Anderson’s production appear minimal. But he is doing something as important.

That stat as the SEC leader in QB pressures is all that needs saying about Will Anderson.

With recent action, now totaling 79 snaps, Brian Branch appears close to being a key member of the Tide’s dime defense.  Including Branch, Pete Golding and Nick Saban have three most impressive freshmen in key roles.

Next. Week 9 SEC Power Rankings. dark

Another Alabama football No. 1 class will bring a new group of elite recruits. More than a few of them have a chance for considerable playing time next season.