TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With 15 early enrollees added to Alabama football’s official online roster this week, there’s a lot of young talent on the practice field as the Crimson Tide began to undergo its first spring practices over the last eight days.
Since its 18th national championship victory concluded this past season, a high turnover of players departing for the NFL has been expected for the Crimson Tide. With more experienced players slated to take up the majority share of starting spots, early enrollees typically have to remain content with a backup role until their number is called.
This season, however, could be different.
Alabama brought in the top recruiting class in the nation in 2021. According to SI All-American, 12 of the Crimson Tide’s 27 verbal commitments ranked in the SI99. With that amount of talent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of the freshmen on this year’s team be assigned starting roles from day one.
According to Alabama coach Nick Saban, though, placing that much pressure on early enrollees is unfair to the players.
“I don't think it's fair, really, to judge guys that quickly,” Saban said. “I think you see potential in guys you start to see after six, seven, eight practices, maybe after the first scrimmage. If these guys continue to improve and progress, they're going to be able to help us in some regard. You may even be able to see that a guy's got a chance to be a potential starter at some position. But it's not that they're a starter at that point, you just see they have the ability if they progress to be able to do that.”
Alabama began conducting spring practices on March 19 after forgoing them last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Quite possibly as a result, only two freshmen started for the Crimson Tide in its opening game at Missouri — linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and defensive back Malachi Moore.
While early enrollees were allowed to work out on their own time, none of them saw any spring action in pads until preseason fall practices began. This season, however, the early enrollees have time to make an early impression as the team gears up for its annual scrimmage game, A-Day.
Junior defensive back Jordan Battle said on Friday that one of the most important things that early enrollees can take from these spring practices is adjusting from high school to the college level of football.
“They just understanding the difference between high school and college right now,” Battle said. “From being big dogs to freshman again, they have to learn the role. They have to look up to us and see more what to do and we have to be leaders and not only say the things we need to do but also show and do the things we need to do.”
There is no doubt a lot of things that the Crimson Tide freshman can benefit and learn from spring practices with veteran players like Battle. On Friday, his teammate in junior offensive lineman Evan Neal echoed Battle’s sentiments towards the new players.
“As far as the younger guys go, we’re just trying to get them to understand how to work and trying to transition them into being college offensive linemen,” Neal said. “I have faith in all of those guys and I’m just excited to continue to work with them.”
The opportunities are there for the early enrollees to make solid impressions. It will be tough competition against the older, more experienced players, but spring football is a prime time for the young players to show what their made of heading into a new season.
According to Saban, a freshman starting at any position is never out of the question.
“We play a ton of freshmen around here in the past, and some of the develop throughout the course of the year and play more in the second half than the first half, but if they can help us win and they can make a contribution to the team, we play them,” Saban said. “We've played a lot of freshmen, given a lot of guys a lot of opportunities and for the most part they've done a pretty good job at whatever their role has been.
“But I think it's way too early to really tell about how that's going to progress at this point.
Here is a full list of early enrollees currently practicing with Alabama football:
(listed alphabetically by last name)
James Brockermeyer, OL, 6-3, 280, Fort Worth, Texas (All Saints Episcopal)
Tommy Brockermeyer, OL, 6-6, 290, Fort Worth, Texas (All Saints Episcopal)
Jacorey Brooks, WR, 6-3, 185, Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy)
Caden Clark, TE, 6-4, 258, Akron, Ohio. (Archbishop Hoban)
Terrence Ferguson Jr., OL, 6-4, 300, Fort Valley, Ga. (Peach County)
Monkell Goodwine, DL, 6-4, 275, Fort Washington, Md. (National Christian Academy)
Agiye Hall, WR, 6-3, 190, Valrico, Fla. (Bloomingdale)
Ian Jackson, LB, 6-2, 225, Prattville, Ala.
Keanu Koht, LB, 6-4, 215, Vero Beach, Calif.
JC Latham, OL, 6-6, 305, Bradenton, Fla. (IMG Academy)
Deontae Lawson, LB, 6-3, 225, Mobile, Ala. (Mobile Christian School)
Christian Leary, WR, 5-10, 190, Orlando, Fla. (Edgewater)
Ga’Quincy McKinstry, DB, 6-1, 180, Pinson, Ala. (Pinson Valley)
Jalen Milroe, QB, 6-3, 206, Katy, Texas (Tompkins)
Robbie Ouzts, TE, 6-4, 240, Rock Hill, S.C.