To say that Alabama landed the #1 recruitment class in 2014 by a landslide may be an understatement. With so many talented players already on campus from previous #1 recruitment classes, the question begs who and in what position will the impact players emerge from the 2014 class? Since there is no perfect science to go by, an educated guess is about as accurate it gets.
In the defensive back class, the Crimson Tide landed three sensational high school players. Tony Brown, an early enrolled cornerback from Beaumont, Texas, who stands 6’0″, weighs in at about 190 lbs, and runs a lightning 3.45 speed, also runs track for Alabama. With the way Alabama’s cornerbacks were shuffled throughout the last season, Brown is already making waves in spring practice.
The talented true freshman is in a great spot to earn an early opportunity. Watching Brown’s highlights makes clear two specific traits he brings to the field: He’s very explosive on and off the ball, and he is a particularly skilled tackler who seems to play with an attitude, a true young man with a mission. Both of these talents will definitely put a spotlight on Brown, as well as the personal tutelage he receives from Nick Saban.
Another talented cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, from Hoover High School, is the #1 player from the state of Alabama. At 6’0″, around 185 lbs, and a fast 4.4 runner, the son of former Crimson Tide star, Bobby Humphrey, will join Tony Brown on the UA track team. In high school, Humphrey did it all for the Hoover Bucks.
When he plays man to man, Humphrey is extremely physical, and he loves to jam the receiver coming off the line of scrimmage. In addition, Humphrey is a very intelligent player, a real student of the game. Yet another aspect of the game that can earn Humphrey playing time is his excellent special teams play. He excels at kick and punt returns. Yes, every time Humphrey touches the football he is trying to take it to the house. Moreover, he is proficient at coverage and blocking kicks. Marlon Humphrey will have some catching up to do, since he will get his first shot at playing time in the fall. But, even if he does not start at a defensive back spot, Humphrey can still have an impact on special teams.
A third dynamic signee is Lawrence “Hootie” Jones, a safety from Monroe, Louisiana, who is already a staggering 6’2”, 220 lb. player. At first glance, Jones looks like a powerful linebacker, but that is just what the naked eye sees, because Hootie Jones moves uncannily well for his size. Which position he will play for Alabama is unclear at the present time. Though he is a true safety, Jones could possibly find a starting role in Alabama’s nickel and dime packages. Jones is what Nick Saban would call a “thumper”- when he hits you, you know it.
In comparison, Jones looks a lot like the Tide’s starting safety, Landon Collins. Another place that Jones would see playing time on the field is in special teams. Though he probably will not be a returner, Jones could easily see the field on one of the coverage units.
As demonstrated in the past, special teams is a great place for true freshmen to earn playing time. In fact, every year Nick Saban seems to find true freshmen who are capable of making an impact in some kind of role on special teams.
This is the first article in a series on early enrollees from the class of 2014 who could have an impact on Alabama’s football team.