For me, one of the most anticipated events each year is the moment when Nick Saban finally releases the two-deep depth chart the week before the first game. More often than not, it doesn’t really answer any questions. Most of the position battles that all of us fans are speculating on end up saying “player x or player y”.
However, juicy information can usually be gleaned from looking at who all are included as the primary back-ups for different position. These spots often hold a few surprises every year, especially when a young freshman breaks into the depth chart.
This year, I am going to try my hand at a prediction, and, once Saban releases the actual depth chart, the rest of you can tell me how wrong I was. Without further ado:
- Cooper Bateman or Jalen Hurts
- Blake Barnett
It seems more and more like the Californian gunslinger is struggling with turnovers and losing ground. I think this race is down to Bateman or Hurts. Both have always been fairly risk averse with a penchant for solid play in the short-intermediate passing game. Cooper Bateman will start the game, but Hurts will get plenty of time. Though listed after, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barnett, too, if the situation allows.
- Bo Scarbrough or Damien Harris
- B.J. Emmons
This one is a bit of a cheat, as there are only four scholarship backs on the roster. I thought about putting Josh Jacobs in over B.J. Emmons, but ended up going with the more highly rated Emmons.
Scarbrough and Harris are neck and neck, and I really think we see an almost even split with the two a la 2012 with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
Wide Receiver (Z)
- ArDarius Stewart
- Cam Sims
Wide Receiver (X)
- Robert Foster or Gehrig Dieter
Wide Receiver (H)
- Calvin Ridley
- Derek Kief
I really love the idea of Ridley playing in slot. That will force teams to either bring in a 3rd cornerback or use a hybrid safety player to cover him. Ridley will be more skilled than the former and just plain faster than the latter.
Foster and Dieter will likely rotate some with Stewart too, and the three will all end up with somewhat equal playing time behind only Ridley. The interesting part to watch will be if Cam Sims manages to earn some snaps too.
- O.J Howard
- Hale Hentges
This will look the same as last year. Brandon Greene will probably slip in on occasion to be a massive blocker and Miller Forristall might garner a few snaps here and there, but Howard and Hentges will have the two contributing tight end spots locked down this season.
- Cam Robinson
- Matt Womack
CamRob is an obvious lock. A redshirt year seems to have done the mountainous Womack some good, and I think he ends up being the primary back up at left tackle
- Lester Cotton
- Dallas Warmack
Lester Cotton took this spot following the move of Ross Pierschbacher to center, and he hasn’t looked back. The second-year player will be backed by his fellow sophomore, Dallas Warmack. The left side of the offensive line is going to be really good this year.
- Ross Pierschbacher
- J.C. Hassenauer
RossP will be the starter after an outstanding freshman campaign at right guard. Josh Casher has made a push as of late, but I think that Hass will hold on to the primary back-up job.
- Bradley Bozeman or Alphonse Taylor
- Brandon Kennedy
Personally, I want Kennedy to be the starter over both. I’ve always been a fan of his cerebral and quick-footed play along the line. However, the coaches seem to prefer the much larger road graters in Bozeman and Taylor
Bozeman will likely be the starter after being first in line all offseason due to Shank putting on too much weight and getting demoted. We’ll see if the demotion was enough to motivate Shank enough to get his job back, but I think Bozeman will enter the game as the starter.
- Jonah Williams
- Chris Owens
Jonah Williams walked onto campus last winter and took the right tackle job by the reigns. Cam Robinson was the last true freshman to start at tackle, and Wiliams (also a five star recruit) is following in his footsteps. He’ll likely have his share of freshman mistakes, but the kid has a lot of potential.
Chris Owens gets very little press, but I’ve consistently been impressed every time I have watched him. He’s made it as high as the second team a few times this offseason, and I think he passes veteran Korren Kirven for this spot
- Jonathan Allen
- Quinnen Williams
Jonathan Allen is Jonathan Allen.
Quinnen Williams is my surprise pick here. He won’t play a whole lot (due to being behind Allen), but I think the true freshman has polished enough interior pass-rushing skills to make a mark in 3rd-and-long situations.
- Dalvin Tomlinson or D’Shawn Hand
- Josh Frazier
Tomlinson and Hand will likely play at the same time in lieu of a nose guard for much of the season, as the Tide has to stay in nickle or dime defenses against most teams these days. The talent along this line is ridiculous, even after the losses of Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson.
- Daron Payne
- Raekwon Davis
Daron Payne is an athletic freak of nature and an absolute monster. A 315-pound man that can run a 4.9 forty yard dash... If he can get his technique down this season, he will quickly rise on the boards for NFL scouts.
Davis, the towering true freshman, will also look to make an impact. He’s raw, but the sheer size will put him into a position to be an instant contributor against teams such as Arkansas.
Edit: Davis may not actually qualify, and his status is unknown for the USC game. If he is unable to play this season, then my new pick here is O.J. Smith.
- Tim Williams
- Christian Miller
I think Tim Williams takes on a little different role than many expect this season. He won’t be a pure pass specialist anymore. I have the gut feeling that he’s worked a lot on his pass coverage and sideline-to-sideline play. This will allow him to play Sam so that Ryan Anderson can stay on the field at Jack.
With Alabama usually in a nickel formation, the two will end up acting as defensive ends more often than not anyway.
- Reuben Foster
- Keith Holcombe or Ben Davis
Reuben Foster is an obvious lock. Holcombe has looked solid during every A-day game, but freshman Ben Davis has apparently been making waves this summer. You’ll likely never see either one, though, except on special teams.
- Shaun Hamilton or Rashaan Evans
- Keaton Anderson
This might be the most accurate or on the entire depth chart. Hamilton and Evans have been working at very different roles for the same formation. It will all depend on matchups and packages, but the two will split the position fairly evenly all year.
- Ryan Anderson
- Terrell Hall
Anderson is 5th year veteran with some of the best pass rushing technique I’ve ever seen in a college player. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for in technical savvy and an expansive repertoire of disengaging moves.
Terrell Hall is a 6’5” monster specimen freshman hailing from the D.C. area. He’s a hulking presence with a body build that may remind you of a cross between an android and a grizzly bear. I really hope he ends up wearing one of those really dark visors. Remember LaMichael Fanning? I think Hall is a similar player, and can hopefully redeem the potential that Fanning squandered.
- Marlon Humphrey
- Jared Mayden
Humphrey will look to improve on his stellar first season and stands a chance to leave as a redshirt sophomore to become a 1st round draft pick. The freshman, Jared Mayden is almost Humphrey’s clone in size and speed, and I think he will be Hump’s primary back-up
- Minkah Fitzpatrick or Anthony Averett
- Shyheim Carter
Like Javier Arenas in 2009, Minkah will be the starter on the outside in base packages, and then slide in to the Star position inside when the Tide is in nickel, while the speedy Averett will fill in on the outside.
Shyheim Carter is one of the most inherently talented and natural playmakers I’ve seen come out of high school, and should factor in as the primary depth in the back field.
When Tony Brown comes back from suspension, he may shake things up a bit, but for now, he’s off the list.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick
- Shyheim Carter
Pretty much the same as above. It will be interesting to see if any of the safeties such as Hootie Jones or Trevon Diggs make a push for the backup role here.
- Eddie Jackson
- Trevon Diggs
Technically, Jackson was a strong safety last year. However, Alabama usually uses the safeties as “left and right” rather than the listed “free and strong”. That to say, Jackson will return as one of the main leaders on this team.
I think that freshman Trevon Diggs is good enough to pass up Deionte Thompson on the depth chart. Diggs is a natural footballer with tremendous instincts and awareness, and he should make an impact this year, even as a true freshman
- Ronnie Harrison
- Hootie Jones
Did you expect anything different?
- Adam Griffith
- Andy Pappanastos
- J.K. Scott
- Cole Mazza
- Xavian Marks
- ArDarius Stewart or Trevon Diggs
- Xavian Marks
- Josh Jacobs or Robert Foster
The return specialists might have been the hardest battle to pick. It seems like Xavian Marks has won the job as the main return guy, but it also felt like everyone and their mothers were returning kicks too.
The freshmen, Diggs and Jacobs, each have a lot of natural talent with the ball in their hands in large, open spaces. I hope that one or both will find a way to get some chances to see what they can do here.
Any final thoughts? Most of the depth chart for the starters seems fairly set this year, outside of QB battle, which made my job fairly easy. Comment below on what you think will be different!