McCarron has been a leader on an Alabama team that is one of the best teams in the entire country. He has pretty much everything that you look for in a quarterback prospect in terms of measurables, coming from a pro-style offense, intangibles, etc. Alabama is certainly not a pass happy offense by any means, but McCarron has proven in just a short amount of time that he is capable of making any kind of throw. He has a strong arm and a quick release, and while his numbers aren’t staggering, he has some really good experience and a national championship as a starting quarterback, a game in which he was an offensive MVP over Heisman finalist Trent Richardson.
He really got better as last season progressed, which is encouraging. He is only a junior in 2012, so he could still potentially have two years of college left. Doesn’t lock in on specific receivers, and does a good job of distributing to the plethora of talent on Alabama’s roster. He is going to have a great offensive line once again this year and should be very productive. As a young quarterback, efficiency and minimizing mistakes was the name of his game. He will always have great running backs behind him, but he can grow as a passer and I think that Alabama will let him loose a bit as a junior, which could cause his overall efficiency to take a slight dip.
Trent Richardson better than Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram? Sure, I’ll buy it. But now you’re trying to tell me that Alabama has ANOTHER running back who is the next great thing in college football? I guess we should get used to that. Eddie Lacy was a big time prospect coming out of high school who has just 151 career carries in two seasons as a member of the Crimson Tide, but he’s got a lot of college football fans and analysts talking. Entering his junior season, Lacy is considered one of the best running backs in the country despite never being a full-time back. In fact, he is almost being overshadowed by another star freshman coming on campus at Alabama, true frosh T.J. Yeldon. However, Lacy has an interesting game. As a sophomore behind Richardson, Lacy averaged over SEVEN yards per carry and had seven touchdowns. He also averaged over seven yards per carry as a freshman with six more touchdowns. He is a huge back with quickness to the hole, power, the ability to break tackles, and he can also make people miss in the open field.
He doesn’t appear to be blazing fast, but when he gets a full head of steam, there is almost no taking him down unless you trip him up from behind. Guys with his combination of size and speed don’t come around too often, so he is a rare breed of player. He is a threat to make a big play any time he touches the ball, and his burst and quickness are second to none for players of his size. Does a good job of tucking the ball high and should continue to develop his skills as a receiver. Would like to see more of an increased role from him as he progresses as a player. Still really raw in terms of his overall ability, but the size, athleticism, and knack for making big plays are certainly there.
Does a great job of getting low and getting to the outside, where he out-runs most defensive backs and all linebackers. Has a nose for the pylon and could be a touchdown machine in the NFL someday. He is a Heisman candidate without ever carrying a full workload. I think he can be a superstar in the NFL if he stays out of trouble off the field and continues on his incredible trajectory. He has every skill you look for in a back and will be playing in a very favorable offense to his skills. As an NFL player, he has first round talent and some slight injury concerns, missing 2012 Spring practice with turf toe surgery.
Michael Williams is one of the top returning receiving threats on the Crimson Tide. He is a massive tight end prospect who has also played defensive end in high school, and he’s a pretty good athlete. He’s not going to blow away anybody with his speed, but he’s a reliable receiver who is a tremendous blocker at this point and that’s a big reason why he has so much upside. If he can continue to develop as a receiver, he could be one of the first tight ends off the board in April. He has a really wide catch radius and could be a similar player overall to former Colorado star and first round pick Daniel Graham. Also contributes on special teams for the Crimson Tide, so he has nice versatility for a tight end prospect. Does a job of sealing his man on the edge and allowing plays to develop to his side of the field. Could almost act as an additional offensive tackle in certain situations. Has good length allowing him to handle most defensive linemen from any type of scheme.
One of the best offensive guard prospects in the country. Honorable mention All-American as a junior in 2011, and a durable starter over the last two years for Alabama at left guard. Athletic player with fantastic size and strength, and a huge (literally) reason why Alabama’s running game has been so successful the last two seasons. Warmack plays with excellent technique and is rarely penalized, and is consistently one of the top graded offensive linemen on a team full of top NFL prospects. Offensive guards are not valued highly on draft night (see David DeCastro) so expect Warmack to go in the second or third round unless he simply cannot be passed on. This is the kind of guy who will undoubtedly start in the NFL for a long time provided he can stay healthy.
Jones will be exposed as a senior, as are all returning players with extremely high expectations, but he has been a force and a stalwart on the Alabama offensive line. He has started at left tackle, guard, and is expected to be one of the best centers in the country in 2012. Won the Outland Trophy as a junior, given to the nation’s best interior lineman. On a line full of talent like Alabama’s, that is some recognition. Jones is an incredible leader on and off the field who is a fantastic student as well. Unanimous first team All-American starting at left tackle among other positions in 2011, and has also started two years at right guard. Reliable starter who would be starting for some team in the NFL on opening day 2012 had he decided to leave early for the draft, which he considered. Really a prospect you can’t go wrong with here, a guy who has 10-year starter written all over him at the NFL level, be it at right tackle or on the interior as a guard.
Physically gifted player who could be the first Alabama lineman to hear his name called on draft night in 2013. Fluker is only a redshirt junior but all indications are he will depart after the 2012 season and become an instant starter in an NFL offense. He is about as talented a right tackle prospect you will see, gifted with athletic ability and incredible size. He is rated as a top 25 player by most outlets going into the 2012 season, and should be one of the top overall offensive tackles in the country. Could have easily left school after his sophomore season which he garnered a lot of national attention, but decided to go back to school to honor a promise he made to his mother, which I really admire. He has missed some time due to injury, but for the most part has been healthy and a dominant player when he’s able to be on the field. Second team All-SEC as a sophomore and should continue to improve in 2012.
Square returns to the Alabama defensive line as the leader of the group, and he really got better as the 2011 season wore on. He doesn’t have outstanding production, but he’s really solid last season with 32 total tackles and seven tackles for loss. The key for Square is going to be his experience in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He will have three years starting in a pro-style, 3-4 defensive alignment which is pretty rare for a college player. It’s not set in stone that is the defense he will be drafted to, but it’s certainly more likely than not. He doesn’t have elite pass rushing skills but he has good overall size and can probably play either defensive end spot in a 3-4 or play tackle in a 4-3 defense. On a defense that lost a ton of star players in 2011-12, Square could break out as a really prominent SEC defender.
Dial is going to be another returning starter on a “depleted” Alabama defense, and a guy who could potentially surprise some people in 2012. He doesn’t have elite athletic ability, but he has great size and pass rush potential from the five technique spot in Alabama’s three man front. Signed with Alabama in 2009 but spent a couple of years at a community college before enrolling at Alabama. Definitely looked raw as a junior in 2011 with only 19 total tackles and one sack, but has a lot of room to improve and is certainly a talented player. He’s ranked pretty low on most draft boards heading into the season, but he has potential to be a solid prospect by year’s end.
Williams is a very intriguing prospect to me. He comes from Australia and has only been playing football since he was 15 years old, but he has found a real niche on the Alabama defensive line. He is athletic enough to play on the outside and is considered one of the top overall defensive tackle prospects in the entire country. Obviously, Alabama has a ton of talent defensively but Williams was a huge reason why their run defense was the best in the country in 2011, even in the tough SEC. He is a massive space eater with phenomenal strength and power. He is obviously extremely hard to move and because of his athletic ability, he is not entrenched as a nose tackle prospect. He can play either interior spot in a four man front, nose tackle in a three man front, or defensive end in a three man front. Does a solid job of collapsing the pocket but he won’t make his living filling up the stat sheet with sacks. Where he is going to make his money is by clogging gaps and pushing the pocket inward. He has good quickness off the snap and gives good overall effort. Sheds blocks with relative ease, especially on obvious passing downs. He is very hard to move and when he is working uphill, he is nearly impossible to block one on one. Needs to work on perfecting his technique, especially because he is so new to the game. Lucky for him, he is pretty much already coming from an NFL defense at Alabama.
NFL scouts are really excited to see how Nico Johnson performs in 2012 as the leader of the Crimson Tide defense. He has the ability to be an All-Conference performer and really an underrated piece of the Alabama defense over the last couple of years. He is known more for his ability to stop the run, and had 46 total tackles in 2011 as well as 6.5 tackles for loss. As he grows in his game, I want to see him take that leadership role to heart and really become a dominant force on the Alabama defense like the players who have come and gone before him. He has the potential to be a top inside linebacker prospect, and he has the athletic ability to be able to play in either defensive scheme. Does a good job of diagnosing the direction of the play and giving great effort. Not a tackling machine like some of the other inside linebackers of this class, but definitely offers something unique and could be a first or second round prospect.
The high school Parade All American and top ranked recruit has certainly not disappointed for the Tide, though he really is expected to break out in 2011 as a junior (seems to be a theme with this talented squad). As a freshman, Johnson had 28 tackles and a sack, and as a sophomore had 33 tackles and an interception. Made the All-SEC Freshman team, and the Tide will be looking for big contributions from him in 2011. The question becomes whether or not Johnson will play inside in the NFL in a 4-3, outside in a 3-4, inside in a 3-4, or outside in a 4-3. He seems like the ideal WILL linebacker in either scheme, and has the frame to add a little more weight to come off the edge. There may not be enough tackles to go around in this supremely talented group of players, but Johnson is one of the better ones.
Mosley came to Alabama and had a phenomenal freshman season in 2010 where he finished with 67 tackles, 10 passes broken up, and two interceptions, both for touchdowns. The Freshman All-American and freshman All-SEC performer came back as a sophomore and slightly regressed statistically, sharing the starting inside linebacker job with Nico Johnson. I would say, of Alabama’s draft-eligible linebackers, Mosley probably has some of the best overall talent. He’s a fantastic athlete with great size and speed, but he had just 36 tackles as a sophomore. Mosley has some injury concerns but he is a very good player who can break out as a top linebacker talent for the 2012 season.
Milliner could be the next in a line of exceptional cornerback prospects coming out of the SEC. He is still pretty raw in terms of his overall ability, but as a sophomore he led a star-studded defense with three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. He is not a polished tackler by any means, but that area of his game will continue to improve and he already does a very good job of closing on ball carriers. When I watch Milliner play, one thing that really stands out is his closing speed, especially in the running game. He does a good job of reading plays and on slow-developing runs to the outside, he makes plays 5-10 yards in the backfield with relative ease. Despite his size, still seems to struggle at times in man coverage, but as he continues to grow in reading plays I think we will see that area improve. Definitely more comfortable right now as a young player sitting in zone coverages and making plays. Has great speed and can contribute on special teams as well. Because of his phenomenal closing speed, he will occasionally whiff on some plays in the backfield as well. His size and length give him a definite advantage as a defender. First team freshman All-American in 2010 as well as a first-team All-SEC performer.
I’m surprised that, to this point, I haven’t got any notes on Robert Lester. Even going into the 2011-12 season, he was considered one of the best safeties in the country, and a year later, nothing has changed. For three straight years, Lester will be one of the best free safety prospects in the country. As a sophomore in 2010, he had eight interceptions and looked like one of the best playmakers in the country. He only had two in 2011, but he is still a very high impact player for the Tide. He has an excellent combination of size and speed, and I’m excited to see him develop into the leader role that will be left behind by 5th overall pick Mark Barron, his running mate at safety the last two seasons. Really does a little bit of everything snatching interceptions, forcing fumbles, and blocking kicks. Versatile player who is a leader on the ‘Bama defense and will have an impact in the NFL.
Breakout player candidate:
71 Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Sophomore 6’6″ 311 pounds
Kouandjio is an elite athlete and was one of the best prospects in high school coming out two years ago. He is a top notch prospect and if not for a season-ending injury, I think he’d have finished last year as a starter on the Alabama offensive line. He is not eligible to enter the draft until 2014 at the earliest, but he is undoubtedly one of the top prospects overall whenever he decides to leave school. He is a smart, athletic player who will likely begin this season as Alabama’s starting left tackle, which is a pretty glamorous position for a sophomore returning from a season-ending injury to have. Definitely keep an eye on this guy.