Alabama Football: Crimson Tide’s five most important freshmen

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Heading into the 2023 season, Alabama football appears to have reached a crossroads in its dynasty. Despite a national championship appearance in 2021 and narrowly missing a playoff appearance in 2022, Alabama has not looked like itself over the past two seasons. Bama fans hope the 2023 team will return the Crimson Tide to dominance.

Coach Nick Saban and his staff landed the no. 1 recruiting class in the 2023 cycle, and those freshmen will play big roles if Alabama Football is going to get back to the top of the mountain.

Alabama Football Freshman no. 5: Justice Haynes

Justice Haynes was a 5-star recruit and the no. 2 ranked running back in the class. The talented back is also an early enrollee, and will have every opportunity to insert himself into Alabama’s backfield rotation.

Ideally, veterans Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams will take the reins as expected. However, neither has shown the ability to be a star running back over the course of a full season.

If the seniors falter, Haynes will be waiting in the wings alongside classmate Richard Young and sophomore Jam Miller. Justice Haynes is a complete back who may have the highest ceiling of anybody in the running back room. He could take over the featured role if given the chance.

Alabama Football Freshman no. 4: James Smith

Defensive tackle James Smith was a huge get for the Crimson Tide as a package deal with high school teammate Qua Russaw. Smith and Russaw, a linebacker, were both 5-star recruits out of Montgomery, and Smith was ranked as the top player in the state of Alabama.

James Smith could potentially penetrate a fairly deep defensive line rotation that will be led by seniors Justin Eboigbe and Tim Smith, along with sophomore nose tackle Jaheim Oatis.

Other upperclassmen such as Jamil Burroughs, Jah-Marien Latham, and Damon Payne Jr. have all earned playing time, and will make it difficult for Smith to leapfrog the depth chart.

However, this means that if James Smith does claw his way into the rotation, he is probably the real deal. Smith will have his best days two or three years down the line, but he could make a major contribution in Tuscaloosa from the jump.