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Alabama Crimson Tide: Top 10 Breakout Players in 2014

Nothing says welcome to college football more than having a breakout season.  Productivity is a must on both sides of the ball for teams to be successful in this league.

Despite losing talent to the National Football League, Alabama returns a bevy of talented pieces for next season. Offensively, Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and T.J. Yeldon are among the leaders for Alabama. Trey DePriest and Landon Collins anchor the Crimson Tide on defense.

A lot goes into having a stellar season as an individual. Players must enter in hungry to learn the system and coaching staff as well as perform well in each game. Here is a list of the top 10 Alabama players who could have a breakout season in 2014.

Top 10 breakout players in 2014

10. DeAndrew White

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Size: 6’0” 190 pounds
  • Classification: Senior

Summary: White was huge for Alabama last season. He returned from an ACL injury in 2012 and provided AJ McCarron with a capable target to throw to. White recorded 32 receptions for 534 yards (16.7 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.  He is a vertical, deep threat receiver. White is a savvy route runner who is deceptively fast. He displays great leaping abilities and despite his size, White is a physical receiver off the line of scrimmage. Though Amari Cooper and Christion Jones grab headlines, watch out for White’s play making ability in 2014.

9.  Jarran Reed

  • Position: Defensive Line
  • Size: 6’4” 310 pounds
  • Classification: Junior (JUCO transfer)

Summary:  Reed brings experience to Alabama’s defense coming from East Mississippi Community College. He can play both defensive tackle and defensive end. Reed is explosive coming off the ball and has an array of pass rush moves. He commands a double team and excels at generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Reed is exceptional against the run and will come into Alabama ready to make an impact on the team.

8.  Reuben Foster

  • Position: Linebacker
  • Size: 6’1” 244 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Foster got valuable playing time as a freshman in 2013. He recorded 12 tackles and provided punishing hits on opposing running backs. Foster plays with a lot of passion and reckless abandon. He is a natural head hunter that knows how to find the football. The question with Foster is can he stay healthy? He has a tendency to get nagging injuries. If Foster can remain healthy and continue to grow this offseason, look out for him in 2014.

7.  Tony Brown

  • Position: Cornerback
  • Size: 6’0” 190 pounds
  • Classification: Freshman

Summary: Despite his youth, Brown has the potential to be the best cornerback in the history of the program. He is a five-star recruit. Alabama fans witnessed Brown performance on A-Day in a non-contact jersey. He did a great job of being physical with the receivers and played the ball well. Brown made secure tackles in space and recorded an interception. He displays exceptional hand-eye coordinating and has great on ball skills. Enrolling early has given him some experience with the team and coaching staff.

6.  A’Shawn Robinson

  • Position: Defensive Line
  • Size: 6’4” 320 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Not too many freshmen lead a team in sacks, but don’t tell that to Robinson. He led Alabama with 5.5 sacks last season. He finished seventh on the team in tackles with 38 and recorded eight tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and a blocked field goal. Robinson has pass rush specialist written on him. He commands a double team and is potent at stopping the run. If he doesn’t succumb to the sophomore slump, Robinson will have a huge season in 2014.

5.  Reggie Ragland

  • Position: Linebacker
  • Size: 6’2” 259 pounds
  • Classification: Junior

Summary: Denzel Devall, Reuben Foster and Dillon Lee are good, but Ragland has that “It” factor. He totaled 17 tackles last season, but really came to play in the 2014 spring game. Ragland led all linebackers with 10 tackles on A-Day. He recorded 2.5 tackles for loss with an interception and a pass breakup. Ragland even brought Derrick Henry to the ground.  He is a secure tackler as well as a hard hitter.

4.  Jonathan Allen

  • Position: Defensive Line
  • Size: 6’3” 264 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Like Robinson, Allen was a pleasant surprise for Crimson Tide, especially going down the stretch last season. He totaled 16 tackles (three tackles for loss), 0.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2013. Allen has pass rusher pinned on him and he displayed it in the A-Day Game. He led all defensive linemen with six tackles. Along with stopping the run, Allen had two sacks in the game and a blocked field goal. Opposing offensive linemen have to be on the lookout for him in 2014.

3.  Chris Black

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Size: 5’11” 182 pounds
  • Classification: Junior

Summary: Though he entered Alabama herald higher than Amari Cooper, it was Cooper and not Black that stole the show in 2012.  In 2013, Black displayed his versatility.  As a receiver, he had eight catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Black put in 31 yards rushing and a touchdown as a running back. He has top-tier speed and great hands. Black is a good route runner that can play in the slot or as a deep threat.  He performed well in the spring game. Black caught three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. If Lane Kiffin really turns him loose, Black could have a breakout season in 2014.

2.  O. J. Howard

  • Position: Tight End
  • Size: 6’6” 237 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Howard is a freak athlete. He has speed despite his size and a second gear when he gets into the open field. Howard caught 14 passes for 269 yards (19.2 yards per catch) and two touchdowns in 2013. Alabama fans saw his speed in the LSU game. Howard caught a 10-yard slant pass from AJ McCarron and turned it into a 52-yard touchdown. He provides matchup problems for linebackers and defensive backs. Howard needs to work on being a better blocker. Like Black, if Kiffin turns Howard loose on the receiving end, he could have a monster season in 2014.

1. Derrick Henry

  • Position: Running Back
  • Size: 6’3″ 238 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Outside of Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White, Henry was the lone star in the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. He totaled 12 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown. Henry caught a five yard pass from McCarron and turned it into a 61-yard burst to pay dirt. He recorded 36 carries for 382 yards and three touchdowns. Henry is built low and possesses speed, vision and power. He does a great job of hitting the holes hard and setting up cutback lanes. T.J. Yeldon will be the starter, but keep your eyes on No. 27 in crimson and white next season.

Other players to look out for: Jacob Coker, Cameron Sims, Robert Foster, D.J. Pettway and Eddie Jackson

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