- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama has utilized more and more true freshmen each year, and it should be no different with the 2013 class. The Crimson Tide already have 21 commitments, including 10 ranked in the ESPN 150. It also doesn’t hurt that nine of them have already enrolled and will compete in spring practice.
RB Derrick Henry: With Eddie Lacy leaving a year early for the NFL, T.J. Yeldon expects to carry the load at running back next year for Alabama. But who will spell him? Both Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart are coming off major knee injuries, and Kenyan Drake will be just a sophomore. After the season Yeldon put together, don’t count out another true freshman making an impact in the backfield next year.
The Tide expect to sign at least three, possibly four ESPN 150 running backs, but the most physical and ready to play is Henry -- who broke the high school career rushing record. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound could see some time at H-back as well, but expect him to start out as a running back.
WR Robert Foster: Last year, Amari Cooper put on a show all week at the Under Armour All-America Game. It was just a preview of what’s to come for Tide fans as Cooper went on to break all the freshman receiving records at Alabama. This year, it was Foster who put his talents on display at the Under Armour game, proving to be one of the top wide receivers in the country. It might be tough to make the same type of impact that Cooper made with all of Bama's receivers returning, but his talent is clear. If Foster can adapt to the offense quickly, he has a shot at getting on the field as a freshman despite the depth at his position. Even if he doesn’t play right away, can you imagine him and Cooper lining up on opposite sides in the future?
TE O.J. Howard: There may be no better athlete in the 2013 class than Howard. Not only that, he plays a position where Alabama has never had an athlete of his caliber. The coaching staff wants to start him out at the H-back position so he can get into his routes without getting bumped off the line of scrimmage, but once he puts more weight on and gets stronger, he’ll move back to his natural tight end position. Regardless of where he lines up, he’s a weapon that AJ McCarron and future quarterbacks will enjoy having at their disposal. He’s 6-foot-6, big enough to play on the line one day and fast enough to be a receiver. He enrolled early, which will help him adapt and give Alabama coaches a chance to figure out how they want to use him this fall.
OT Brandon Hill: It’s been an interesting ride, but Hill finally made it to Alabama. After playing a season at Hargrave Military Academy, he comes in more college-ready for the rigors he’ll face when he gets to Tuscaloosa. On his official visit, he measured in at just under 400 pounds, so he’ll have to shed some of that weight if he wants to play this fall. However, with D.J. Fluker leaving early for the NFL draft, the right tackle position is up for grabs, and Hill will be one of the candidates to replace the potential first-round pick. He and junior college transfer Leon Brown are the most likely candidates to break the rotation on the offensive line, and the two will battle it out this spring for playing time.
ATH Anthony Averett: The final spot could’ve gone to a true cornerback such as Maurice Smith or Jonathan Cook, but Averett holds an advantage in his versatility. The ESPN 300 athlete is expected to start out on defense for Alabama, primarily at cornerback, but he can move all around the secondary if need be. The last two years, both Vinnie Sunseri and Geno Smith have made impacts for the Tide as freshmen in various nickel and dime packages. Alabama isn’t afraid to rotate true freshmen in the secondary, and Averett could be that guy next year. He’s intelligent enough to grasp the defense, which is key if you want to see the field. If nothing else, he will likely make an impact on special teams based on sheer athleticism.
6dSam Khan Jr.