Little Known Sophomores You May be Cheering For Soon
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Little Known Sophomores You May be Cheering For Soon
By: Larry Burton
There are lots of positions where Alabama fans may be saying “Who?” when they hear their name, or they aren’t sure they really know them, so this week, lets get to know some of the “newbies” who who were last year’s still unknown freshmen that man be seeing more playing time this season and slowly become household names as sophomores.
One is Lawrence “Hootie” Jones, a candidate to be one of the new starters at safety in the defensive backfield that always seems to be in a rebuilding mode.
About “Hootie” – Hootie was one of three Monroe, Louisiana players that were part of the 2014 class that Les Miles would have loved to have kept in state. He was a four star safety and the number four prospect at that position in the country. Yes he had tons of awards and accolades coming out of high school including being named the fifth best prospect in the state. Right now he’s a touch over 6’2” and weighs in about 223, but for a guy with that size and weight, he can motor and has the size and weight that means he can take on the biggest running backs and lay them out and simply smash smaller receivers.
He’s got one son, Davis, who is just 4 months old who lives the mother and he’s very excited about being a father and says it’s made him mature in more than one way. He spends a lot of time Skyping with the boy and his mother and wants to stay a big part in his life. And the nickname “Hootie”? It’s one he’s had since being an infant himself. Family members say he was hooting like an owl before he could talk, especially when being passed from person to another.
Why he’s important – He got his feet wet last season, mostly on special teams as is Saban’s tradition with freshmen, but why he’s so important is the lack of experience and big time players at his position, safety. While he got a lot of personal instruction and mentoring from outgoing Landon Collins, there’s still going to be a learning curve in being the “man” day in and day out. For Alabama to make another run to the national championship playoffs, they’re going to need Jones to step up and step up big. He has the size, speed and muscle to do so, it’s all a question of how fast he can learn all the nuances of the position at this level.
2015 outlook – Saban seems confident that Jones is going to be more than a fill in for departing Collins and will anchor that position for at least the next two years. He’s healthy, big, fast and strong and doesn’t have any bad habits to unlearn or any disciplinary issues to worry about. I can hear the fans yelling out hoots for Hootie this year that may confuse visitors into wondering why they’re hearing boos.
Shaun Hamilton – With so many linebackers with so much talent, it’s hard to precisely target just who will fill the spots being vacated in that group, but if you were a betting person, it would be a good bet to lay some chips on Hamilton to be a starter or a very significant playing time person at inside linebacker this year.
An almost local product from Montgomery, Alabama, he was a four star linebacker personally recruited by Kirby Smart and though he’s only 6’0” and around 237, he lays the wood like a much bigger player and he has a quick burst to catch running backs before they use a hole to spring to more green. He’s a good student in class and in gridiron and that could be very useful to the Tide as they look to replace Trey DePriest in that very important postion.
Why he’s important – They have many candidates who could replace DePriest, but they need one do more than fill the position, they need someone to step up and help fill the leadership vacuum as well. Most folks see Reggie Ragland in this spot, but Ragland’s health, mostly his head and neck issues, may make this a position that sees both Hamilton and Ragland both playing almost equal amounts of time and if Ragland suffers more injuries, then all the experience he has last season filling in, where he had three tackles as a linebacker, will certainly come in handy.
2015 outlook – Hamilton has around a 4.6 fourty, but he’s quick in his initial burst and shows the ability to be a great run stopper. His pass coverage ability hasn’t been shown yet and he may struggle in that role early on. As for his ability to grasp the defense, even Ragland himself was heard to sing Hamilton’s praises even as a freshman. What will make it easier for Hamilton early on will be vast array of talent around him. He won’t have too much of the load on his shoulders with such a great group around him, but as the season goes on, he could really be one of the main load carriers.
Rashaan Evans – Xvazier Dickson was a solid player for the Tide last season and with him gone, there are many who could step into that spot, but odds are, at least from my perspective, that Rashan Evans will be the man to cement that spot at the outside “Jack” linebacker position. Evans is 6’3” and around 225 pounds as cat like quick. He was a five star recruit and was the number one player in his recruiting class at his position.
If his name rings a bell with just a casual Alabama fan, it may be the fact that he’s from Auburn High School and was thought to be an Auburn signee until almost the very last moment. While there was a lot of both backlash and newsprint from that, Evans stands by his decision and couldn’t be happier to be a member of the Crimson Tide.
Why he’s important – As stated before, Xvazier Dickson was a solid player and with him gone, Evan has the ability to be more than a replacement. Most coaches feel he could be a significant upgrade and one of the top players at his position in the country. He is cheatah quick from the snap of the ball and could be the sack leader that Saban’s been wanting for quite some time.
2015 outlook – He already has significant playing time as a freshman and recorded 15 tackles including two for a loss and one sack. We also know that his speed will allow him to cover any back coming through the line in a pass route, but we don’t know how he’ll do as an every down player against the run.
I expect to see Evans do well in all aspects of the game however and become the next superstar in the defensive front. It wouldn’t be far fetched to see Evans quickness make teams fear his sack ability so much, that a safety or corner from the other side will make hay sneaking in on the opposite side and getting some sacks too. Evans is just going to be player that one man is going to have too hard a time trying to stop putting pressure on the quarterback.
ArDarius Stewart – Last but certainly not least in the names of sophomores that will be household names this season that aren’t so well known now is Stewart. With Alabama losing their superstar pass snagger Amari Cooper to the first round of the NFL draft, someone will have to step up and no one has a bigger upside and potential to do it than Stewart. The redshirt sophomore is almost 6’1” and 230 pounds of speed and slipperyness. He is from Fultondale, Alabama and was a four start recruit rated to be the number three receiver in his recruiting class.
Why he’s important – In speaking publicly about Stewart, Saban says he has the speed and explosiveness to be a great player, but is someone who still needs to work on the little things to attempt to try and fill both the shoes and role of Cooper. With Cooper gone, someone has to be the deep threat that every team needs and Stewart does have that potential. While the Tide has a lot of weapons at receiver to bring to bear, the only two with playing time and killer speed to scare opposing teams.Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter Thanks for sharing the link to this story on your Facebook page!