With one of the most successful senior classes in Tide history moving on as well as a number of underclassmen to the NFL opportunity knocks for many reserve players. Here are a few who have a big opportunity in 2013.
DL LaMichael Fanning – redshirt sophmore – 6′ 6″ 298 – The minute LaMichael Fanning showed up in Tuscaloosa everyone was talking about what a physical freak he was, how he looked like an NFL lineman now. To date Fanning has only played in garbage time. He showed flashes of ability this past spring and definitely has the suplex body slam down but hasn't cracked the regular rotation. He looks downright skinny at 298 lbs and might stand a better chance if he put on some bulk and refined his power move. He has looked quick at times but consistency seems to be his weakness to this point. If he can refine those skills and get stronger I believe he has a huge upside. This season getting into the regular rotation at defensive end is critical.
DB – John Fulton – senior – 6′ 1″ 187 – Fulton arrived in 2010 with promise but was washed to second and third team for most of his career. Finally in 2012 he was called on to start when Alabama abandoned their three safety experiment and seemed to be responding but was quickly injured. With experience being again on short supply for Alabama corners the senior has an opportunity to finally be a leader in the Alabama secondary.
OL – Arie Kouandjio – Junior – 6′ 6″ 309 – The elder brother of starting left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio has been a bit of a fan favorite as he battled back from multiple knee injuries. 2012 was a rebound year for Arie as he was considered a top reserve and was even given a few "non garbage time" snaps for experience. With three spots now open this is his big chance to step into a starting roll and get the experience he needs. Competition will be tough however and backup offensive lineman generally don’t play much until someone gets hurt. At stake are bragging rights around the thanksgiving dinner table at the Kouandjio household for a generation.
LB – Tana Patrick – Senior – 6′ 3″ 236– Patrick was once considered an Auburn lock as a recruit but he spurned the Tigers and Signed with Alabama. Patrick has always been athletic but was slow to add the muscle needed to play in the SEC. After several years of special teams duty Patrick gained a regular spot in Alabama’s goal line package in 2012. With Nico Johnson graduating playing time in the middle will be available. While CJ Mosley is the starter opposite Trey DePriest Alabama will look for someone to be a run defense specialist in the 2013 Tide Defense.
QB – Alec Morris – Redshirt Freshman – 6′ 3″ 225 – Some may have already forgotten the Texas quarterback but he does hold a unique spot on the Alabama roster. Alabama currently has two quarterbacks committed for the 2013 signing class with another highly touted walkon as well. One of those, Cooper Bateman is one of the top recruits in the nation. Alabama went with multiple quarterbacks as the backup in 2012 which means that none of them satisfied the coaches. Thus there is a huge opportunity for Morris. He may have more pure quarterbacking skills than the two incumbents and knows the system better than any of the newcomers. Morris was always a developmental project but even if Cooper Bateman is the future Morris has a chance to lock down the #2 spot long term which would make him "the guy" in the event of an injury.
RB – Kenyan Drake – Sophamore – 6′ 1″ 205 – Drake was deeply buried on Alabama’s roster as a true freshman but season ending injuries to two players forced him up the list. He got a lot of garbage time carries and had some highlight reel moments but also had several fumbles and was suspended for the one game in which he would have played the most. Drake is a skilled running back and looks great running the ball but he's smaller than the others and his pass blocking may be suspect. If Drake can put on some solid muscle this winter and prove his ability to secure the ball and pass block this spring he is in prime position to get significant playing time in 2013. TJ Yeldon is likely a three year player so he could one day be the man, but like other positions, Alabama is bringing in more competition all the time. Drake's best opportunity is now.
TE – Harrison Jones – Junior – 6′ 4″ 244 – I predicted wrongly that the younger brother of Barrett would win the H-Back Job last year but that didn't happen. Instead Alabama went with a combination of Jalston Fowler and a walkon to handle the position. Alabama signed perhaps the nations top tight end in O J Howard, a 6′ 5″ 220 physical freak of a player and he is already on campus. Jalston Fowler may also return by fall since his injury was early in the 2012 season. Jones is a veteran member of the team now but his opportunities may not last forever.
Many great Tide players were once forgotten reserves. Opportunity knocks for many, who will answer the door in 2013? Time will tell.
ed.- Bumped from fanposts. Nice work!
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