Alabama Football: 5 Tide Commits Who Will Start a Game in 2014
Nick Saban's 2014 class is filled with players who could potentially make an early impact this fall.
With Alabama poised to wrap up another top-ranked recruiting class on Wednesday, the focus for Nick Saban and his coaching staff will soon switch to identifying which players in the 2014 class are ready to contribute this fall.
The good news for Saban and Tide supporters is that there are several talented players in a class that features 12 prospects ranked in the Top 100 of the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Which handful of prep stars are in the best position to make an immediate impact at the Capstone this season?
*All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.
With Alabama losing starting kicker Cade Foster and punter Cody Mandell to graduation, the Tide’s special teams units will go undergo a makeover in the offseason.
By securing a commitment from kicker JK Scott, Saban has addressed a need at a spot that rarely nets the attention of fans on signing day.
While Scott could challenge rising sophomore Adam Griffith for Foster’s old job, his immediate value lies with his ability to step in for Mandell at punter.
According to ChrisSailerKicking.com, Scott is ranked as the nation’s top punter in the 2014 class.
Offensive line has been a heavy emphasis in the 2014 cycle, with the Tide landing six commitments who will line up and play for Mario Cristobal’s unit.
Among that group is 4-star offensive tackle Dominick Jackson, who is rated as the nation’s top JUCO tackle prospect.
Saban has a long history of bringing in JUCO players who are ready to fill an immediate need. With the left tackle spot vacated by Cyrus Kouandjio open, Jackson is a prime candidate to eventually land that job.
Even if he doesn’t end up at left tackle, the 6’7”, 304-pound Jackson is a versatile player who is capable of pushing for time at right tackle or either guard position.
With 2013 starting defensive ends Ed Stinson (graduation) and Jeoffrey Pagan (NFL draft early entry) moving on to the NFL, new defensive line coach Bo Davis will have a clean slate to work with on the edges of his three-man front.
However, one member of the Tide’s class should have a head start on jumping into the competition to land one of those two vacancies.
D.J. Pettway, who spent the first two years of his college career at Alabama before being dismissed for an off-field incident, has rejoined the Tide after a year-long stint in the JUCO ranks.
Since Pettway is an early enrollee and considering he already knows the ins and outs of the Tide’s system, the 6’3”, 250-pounder is an active lineman who has a chance to fill an immediate void up front.
In response to the rise of spread offenses in college football, Saban has spoken of his desire to make some changes to his recruiting philosophy at defensive end, as he told Siriux/XM NFL Radio’s “Moving the Chains” last month.
He’s put that new strategy to use in the 2014 cycle by landing the top-ranked defensive end in the nation in 5-star Virginia standout Da’Shawn Hand.
The 6’4”, 265-pound Hand is the rare prospect who can be equally effective lining up with his hand in the dirt as opposed to standing up and dropping into coverage.
That type of athleticism will help the Tide’s quest to contain mobile quarterbacks who have troubled their defense in years past.
One of the Tide’s biggest needs in the 2014 cycle was finding impact corners who can play right away. By landing 5-star talents in Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, Saban was able to hit a home run in that department.
While both are likely to see the field early and often—and either could occupy a spot on this list—Brown gets the slightest of nods for two reasons: He is already on campus as an early enrollee and his 188-pound frame is better suited, at least initially, to deal with some of the SEC’s bigger receiving threats.
Both Brown and Humphrey, who each double as standouts in track, are capable of claiming a starting role by the end of the 2014 season.