Howdy, folks. Welcome to another hour-long chat about all things Alabama football. So without further adieu, let's jump into your questions.
Alex,Who will be the first Alabama player being drafted?
My best guess is CB Dee Milliner. The Eagles could be interested in him. He may not be a shutdown corner at the next level, but he's the best cover guy available. He'll be followed closely by OG Chance Warmack. It's rare that an interior lineman goes that high in the draft, but he's a special talent.
Alex, Landon Collins did a great job on special teams this year and it appears he would make a great safety next year so you see him starting at one of the safety positions?
He's got an excellent shot. And you're right in pointing out how he played on special teams. He made a marked improvement there as the season went on and rest assured coaches notice that. For that reason, I believe he very well could beat out a Nick Perry or a Vinnie Suneri and start alongside Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix next season.
Alex, what chances do you give Bama of finishing with the top recruiting class?
Slim just because of the talent and depth of Florida's class. If, however, a Gator commit or two flips and Alabama lands three or more of the top targets they have left on the board, they could contend for the top class. Either way, I've been impressed with the class they've put together so far. You're talking about 16 five- or four-star commits.
There has been talk about the new ncaa rules changes making the playing field more level for recruiting at schools that aren't currently in the top tier like Bama, UGA, tOSU etc. Do you think this is the case? The "Saban Rule" hasn't seemed to slow him down one bit.
I don't see it having much of an effect on Alabama because of who the Tide is most often going up against in recruiting battles. It isn't a David vs. Goliath situation. It's often Goliath vs. Goliath with either Florida, Georgia or Auburn challenging Alabama for the top recruits in the country. The way Saban and his staff stay on prospects and keep ahead of the curve leads me to believe they'll do just fine.
Am I going to coach with the Philadelphia Eagles?
You'd surprise me if you did. Last I saw you you were in Mobile at the Senior Bowl wearing an Alabama sweater and visiting with your former players. You missed Chip Kelly at the Senior Bowl by about 24 hours.
I look at the top 10 high school players and 0 of them are coming to Alabama. On a scale of 1-10, how much panic should Alabama fans be exhibiting?
Zero. Alabama has signed the No. 1 athlete in the country and as I said earlier, 16 four- or five-star commits. Seven of the 21 current commitments are ranked among the top five of their positions.
Do you think Henry has the potential to be the #2 this year behind Yeldon? Is he that good or wouldn't it be better to redshirt him. We will have plenty of talent with Fowler and Hart returning.
I don't see him redshirting and I don't see him as the No. 2 tailback. It's more likely, in my opinion, that Kenyan Drake beats out Jalston Fowler, who could play more H-back this season, for the job. He will, however, play in some facet. He's just too talented to keep off the field and while there is a ton of depth at tailback, you have to remember that both Fowler and Dee Hart are coming off major injuries and Eddie Lacy is gone.
who is the most prized recruit left out there that Alabama is recruiting
Hard to say because it's all depending on need. I think the two Alabama fans should keep a close eye on are DT Eddie Vanderdoes and S Vonn Bell.
Throw OT Laremy Tunsil and DL Dee Liner into that group as well.
Since you are not a Bama homer, lets give Saban 6 more years. How many titles do you think are possible with the players coming in and his ability to develop talent?
That's so tough to say. If I were giving an over-under, I'd put it at 2.5. History dictates that the run must end at some point, but there's been no indication that Saban and the staff are slowing down. Next season they'll be the favorites. The real test may come when AJ McCarron graduates and another QB is forced to step in.
LSU doesn't scare me this year. And we get Texas AM early. Do you think Texas AM can give us another game like last year? I think if that game was played at a different time, the results would have been different. (Too many emotions and fatigue from LSU game.)
That's a fair point about the timing of the game, but my push back would be the location of the game this coming season. Alabama will have to go to College Station for what will be a combustible environment. And that's on the heels of a tough season opener against Virginia Tech in Atlanta. The good news is Alabama gets a bye week in between the two games.
Which EE's are the buzz following? Is Derrick Henry impressing and are they having 7on7's this early?
No news on the early enrollees as of yet. They're still in the very early stages of the offseason conditioning program. As far as who has the most buzz, it's probably Henry. He's the highest ranked player in the class and there's the added bonus of wondering what position he'll end up playing long term.
I believe we end with Liner, Vanderdoes, Bell, Eddie Jackson and Kamara. Agree?
There's a good chance at least 50 percent of those players you named come to Tuscaloosa. Don't discount the stretch run for those guys, though. No doubt they'll all be heavily pursued by other programs prior to Feb. 6.
1) Was this year a let down for me? Was I expected to do more? 2) Will I develop into that pass rusher needed by my teammates?
The first half of the season, I would feel comfortable calling it a let down. However, the last three games you really turned up the heat and showed the skill we all saw coming at A-Day during the spring. As far as next season, I expect you'll continue to grow into your rather lanky frame, learn more of the nuance to the position and produce better numbers.
Do you see Brent Calloway getting on the field other than ST next year?
He very well could. His best shot might be making a mark at H-back. It's clear coaches like his skill set, it's just a matter of keeping him at one position and seeing if he can develop into a contributor.
I was behind the Manti Te'o hoax. Roll Damn Tide!
You got us!
Where do you see Eddie Williams fitting in over the next year? Seems that he has a ton of potential.
I think he still may be a season away from being a contributor anywhere other than on special teams. That's not a knock against his talent, I just want to see more of what he can do at safety. I believe that's where he'll end up with so much talent already on campus at wide receiver.
Alex, can you breakdown the current CB situation at Bama and any CB needs leading up to signing day? Is this a big area of concern?
It's still an area I'm paying close attention to. There's not much there in terms of quality depth. Deion Belue could get better in Year 2 under Saban and Geno Smith might do the same as a sophomore. That said, I like that they're bringing in two quality cornerbacks in Maurice Smith and Jonathan Cook. And while Vonn Bell isn't a corner, the safety could be a help in the secondary should he sign with Alabama.
Do you see our pash rush improving with any of the new defensive guys that are going to be stepping up and/or coming in new?
I don't know how much help the 2013 class will be, but the freshmen and sophomores from this past season could make the difference. While I don't see an elite pass-rusher on the horizon, I do think the pass rush as a whole might improve. Keep an eye on D.J. Pettway, Denzel Devall and Jeoffrey Pagan. I like what I've seen from those three.
What's your best guess at the starting OL next year?
As of Jan. 24: RT Austin Shepherd, RG Arie Kouandjio, C Ryan Kelly, LG Anthony Steen, LT Cyrus Kouandjio. Leon Brown or Brandon Hill might factor in at RT and Alphonse Taylor could push Arie Kouandjio at RG. I expect Steen to flip from RG to LG this spring.
Who are the freshmen that could start early in the season and make an impact next year? Redshirted freshmen included. I think Tomlinson and Black could.
Tomlinson and Black are two good places to start. As far as the class of 2013 is concerned, I think Henry and Howard could make an impact, as well as Brown or Hill depending on if they can supplant Shepherd at RT. Keep an eye on LBs Ryan Anderson and Dillon Lee, too. The redshirt freshmen got themselves sent home from Miami but they're obvious talents.
After the Missouri body slam, I don't recall hearing or seeing much from LaMichael Fanning. Did he not play much after that play? Will he have much impact going forward given the strength he showed in that impressive, yet dangerous, move?
You're right, there wasn't much noise from Fanning after that hit. He's a guy that's so confounding because he has all the talent in the world but he just hasn't been able to put it together. The body slam was evidence of that. Sure it was a spectacular play, but it was also a dumb move on his part. It's tough to judge a kid in the moment, but throwing someone over your head is uncalled for. I'll say this, though: If the light ever comes on for him, watch out. He's what you draw up when you imagine a defensive end in the 3-4.
I've heard people who watched a lot of Muscle Shoals games say that Alabama already has several linemen that are just as good or better than Dee Liner. Is that true in your estimation?
Honestly that's an unfair comparison to make. Liner is obviously highly regarded, but we never know how good a prospect will be until he's had at least a few months on campus. Don't discount the raw talent and what it can become under Saban on the field and Cochran in the weight room. That said, there are a number of talented young linemen already at Alabama.
What do you think we can expect from Dalvin Tomlinson following his knee surgery?
I have high expectations for him. He's a guy that could help the pass rush. Saban said as much during the season, pointing out that if not for an injury he might have played as a true freshman.
If you had to guess, what would be WR depth chart next year? Obviously Cooper and Bell towards the top, but what about White, Black, Christion Jones, etc., not to mention the incoming recruits?
Very tough to call, but I think we'll start out seeing Cooper and Norwood starting on the outside with Christion Jones, DeAndrew White and Chris Black competing to play the slot. Kenny Bell or Marvin Shinn could be good options as the fourth receiver.
What are you expecting out of next year's D-line? We gotta have a better pass rush, right?
I expect a more athletic defensive line but that doesn't necessarily mean it will be better. I think they could wind up with more sacks but don't discount the value of experience when you're playing in a system that is predicated on gap assignment. There can't be a rogue defensive end flying up field leaving a running lane for the tailback or quarterback.
This year the talking heads kept talking about the lack of stars on the team. I'll admit we really didn't have headliners, but I still really enjoyed this team, maybe more than the previous 2 championships. Do you see next years team having some of those headliners? Maybe McCarron, Yeldon, and Cooper?
Absolutely, and I think you named the three big names. McCarron will enter the season as a Heisman contender and by now everyone knows how good Yeldon and Cooper are. If Hubbard develops as some expect he could, he might be the star on defense opposite C.J. Mosley.
I don't hear anything about Barrett Jones going to the NFL. Just wondering what he is going to do. Thanks.
He was a senior this past season so he's going pro. I've seen him go as early as the second round in some mock drafts. His versatility having started at three different positions in three national championship games will be a big chip in his favor.
Do you see Cooper Bateman taking over the reigns as the #1 backup this year?
On the depth chart, no. I imagine the staff will have Alec Morris as the No. 2 on paper as they try to redshirt Bateman. Now if McCarron were to go down for a significant period of time all bets are off.
What do you think of Saban/Mal Moore throwing a bone to former Bama coaches by playing teams like Colorado St. (Jim McElwain) and Ga. St. (Bill Curry) a season or two ago? I think it's awesome. If we're gonna pay a cupcake, make sure the money goes to someone/somewhere we actually like.
I'm sure that's part of the motivation. The other schools benefit from the exposure of having played Alabama even if they do lose by a wide margin.
I have always wondered if S&C guys are pursued by other programs. Seems like any program would love to have Cochran for what he does in the weight room and his energy on the sideline. Fair to say he is underrated, in terms of his importance to the success of the Saban years?
He is definitely a valued member of the staff. Every time there's a rumor of a coordinator leaving, there's the inevitable caveat that Cochran is going with him.
Do you think there's any way next season could be an offensive disaster if the O-line doesn't produce? That'd be problem for any team, but with the Tide throwing the ball more, I think some important people might get really unhappy if we start losing games by abandoning the run game and throwing the ball ineffectively.
I don't foresee Alabama abandoning the running game under Saban, but you're right to be concerned about an offensive line that's replacing three of five starters. Will it be a disaster? Probably not. The guys coming in are talented. But will it be as good as this past year? I don't know.
Who is the legitimate #2 QB behind AJ?
I give the nod to Alec Morris, who redshirted this past season. It was very telling to me that during the final minutes against Notre Dame, up four touchdowns, that Saban kept McCarron in the game rather than letting Sims of Ely finish it out.
Have you ever spoken to Cochrane (during the season) without him having lost his voice?
That is his voice. The guy is non-stop hype.
Do you think McCarron could be a NFL QB? He reminds me of a Flacco type of manager and can air it out when needed.
Flacco is a fair comparison, though I think he might have a little bit better arm than McCarron. I do believe McCarron will be on an NFL roster next year and will have a long career in the pros. Do I think he'll become a starter? I'm not so sure at this point. I'd like to see him take his game a notch higher and truly dominate defenses. We'll learn a lot about him this season with the offensive line coming back to earth and Eddie Lacy gone.
Kirby Smart going to the pro's?!?!
Not this year, my friend.
Who will be the "QB" of the defense next year? Mosley? Was it Johnson last year?
It's Mosley's turn to step up and lead the defense. It's the first time he'll be the clear-cut starter and with Nico Johnson gone, the job of getting the entire defense on the same page falls to him. He's a quieter type of guy but I don't question his ability to lead. You don't always have to be a vocal leader to get the job done.
Well folks, that's all the time I have. It was another enjoyable turn in the chat room with you all. If I didn't get to your question today, come back at the same time and place next week and we'll get to it then. Can't wait that long? Check out TideNationESPN.com and submit your question/thought on the message board and I'll get to it right away. Or if Twitter is your cup or tea, hit me up at @AlexS_ESPN.