Alabama still hasn’t had it’s first scrimmage yet so very little news is out. The only theme thus far is the unfortunate but predictable vacuum of leadership. Facts are that you simply don’t lose the kind of leadership that led to back to back National Championships and replace that in a day. This team has some talented players who are going to be great, but that alone doesn’t equal championships. They will have to learn the hard way how to lead.
So with no real news to discuss I did my semi-annual review the roster looking for changes. These changes often mean nothing but can point to movers and shakers for next season. Last year it was a noted weight gain in a freshman Amari Cooper that showed up long before the touchdowns started coming. So here is what I see.
#2 quarterback Blake Sims dropped 10 pounds. This time last year he was attempting to gain weight to make a shot at running back. This year he has probably reversed that in an attempt to hold off the younger quarterbacks for one more season and have at least some shot at the starting job a year from now.
#? Quarterback Cooper Bateman: Bateman is probably Sim’s biggest competition for that starting job. He arrived this winter having gained 18 pounds from his high school season. At 6′ 3″ 208 with a very McCarron like arm he will be hard to beat out this time next season. Of the young QB’s I’ve seen on film Bateman’s arm is by far the best.
I have to note that I am disappointed running back Kenyan Drake has not only failed to put on any weight but has actually lost weight down to 201. This might not be terrible but I really felt he needed to bulk up to hold off some of the younger runners we are bringing in. We will have to wait and see how he plays to see if this weight loss was a good or bad thing.
All the public talk is about freshman running back Derrick Henry. The 6′ 3″ monster running back is the leading rusher in US high school history. He lost about 5 pounds since arriving in January. He may be at his ideal weight already but no doubt the staff may want to change what that weight is. His weight may change again by fall.
You don’t often see much weight gain for the older receivers but you do from the younger ones. Of the younger wideouts freshman Raheem Falkins showed a notable gain of 13 pounds since highs school. Falkins is a big possession type receiver so this is probably a good thing. He won’t start this year but if he can avoid a redshirt and get garbage time this season it would put him in a good position for the 2014 season.
Backup blocking tight end Malcolm Faciane went from 259 to 267. Not a huge gain but expect to see him with more goal line blocking duties as a result.
Super freshman O J Howard is up to 237. That’s 17 pounds over his high school playing weight. This guy hasn’t been talked about much but recruit services indicated this was the most dominant athletic type tight end they had seen since Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a perennial all pro and future NFL hall of fame’r. This guy has some work to do in how to run routes and use his body but if he gets it, there really aren’t any defenders out there that can match up with him.
#2 Left Tackle Brandon Greene redshirted last season and has gained 13 more pounds to 307. He arrived from high school weighing 276 with a mostly basketball background. I believe they are grooming him to replace Cyrus Kouandjio after this season as the starting left tackle. His steady weight gain is an encouraging sign.
Offensive lineman Chad Lindsay was a project as a recruit. He was just too small to begin with but he gained 12 more pounds this year to 302. He is currently competing at guard for a starting and the backup center spot.
Another backup Alphonse Taylor has been steadily losing weight since arriving at 354. He is down to 335 and is also competing for the starting guard spot.
Behemoth freshman Brandon Hill arrived on campus this winter at about 400 pounds. He is down to 385. He will redshirt this season. The staff simply isn’t going to play anyone that big at offensive line. Expect to see him drop closer to the 350 range or below to see the field.
Freshman Landon Collins who was already a physical beast of a safety is now 13 pounds more of a beast. He will be very hard to hold off for one of the starting safety spots this year.
Vinnie Sunseri had a rough sophomore campaign due to coverage issues. He has dropped 5 pounds no doubt in an attempt to get faster.
There was a good bit of change on the defensive line. It has been noted that Saban wants to get faster on the DL so there was some gain and loss possibly on what each player was attempting to do this season.
freshman Dalvin Tomlinson gained a whopping 21 pounds during his freshman year. He’s now 287 which is near the top for defensive end size in the SEC. Tomlinson blew a knee playing soccor of all things in high school and probably would have played as a true freshman were it not for that. He was healed and went through fall practice but the staff didn’t want to risk a re-injury. Their patience may pay off starting now.
LaMichael Fanning dropped 28 pounds down to 270 from 298. His dramatic loss of weight was puzzling to me but watching him on film he looks much quicker. He seemed to lack the ability to consistently penetrate in the past so this could be a situation where they have figured out where he needs to be effective. He has a shot at the #2 Defensive End spot which would give him roughly 40% of the snaps.
Backup nose man Darren Lake gained 9 pounds to put him at 324. He looks to be the future at the nose position. He trails starter Brandon Ivory in experience but could possibly overtake him this season. He looks very intimidating on film.
The third man at nose was red-shirted Dakota Ball. He lost 25 pounds to 270. This is too light for the nose man so he is either going to have to move to another position or the staff plans to bulk him back up with muscle after cutting the fat he didn’t need.
I noted another 10 pounds weight gain for Ed Stinson putting him at a very NFL ready 292. He started out as a linebacker but just kept getting bigger. This will be his second season to start at defensive end.
Freshman Korren Kirven lost weight from 292 to 281. This is probably related to them wanting to be faster.
One of the few 5th year seniors who have NOT played but did NOT quit the team this fall is Anthony Orr. He has gone from 258 to 282 a gain of 24 pounds. While Orr has never been able to get playing time in the past his weight gain could either indicate he is making one last push to the field or he’s just mailing it in for his last season. We shall see. It’s not unheard of for a career backup to come out of no where and be a major contributor their final season.
At linebacker Denzel Devall was the big true freshman winner last season getting tons of playing time down the stretch. He has gone from 243 to 250.
Another guy who made a push for playing time was Reggie Ragland. He was a big linebacker to begin with at 247 but is up to 259. If he has been able to maintain his mobility that would be interesting but like Ed Stinson if he continues to get bigger he may end up on the defensive line.