Alabama’s senior quarterback Jake Coker will have his mental and physical toughness tested this summer. He stands in a position that former Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims was in last season, a chance needed to prove himself. Four other players are pushing Coker for the starting job, but if he wants to win, Coker must develop consistency throughout summer and fall camp.
Alabama’s had some players to emerge this spring. Redshirt freshman quarterback David Cornwell is one of few that head coach Nick Saban is pleased with. Leadership and knowledge of the system are two things that Saban mentions about Cornwell. He struggles at times with ball placement, but Cornwell should iron that out in summer workouts.
Junior running back Derrick Henry was solid in the team’s offseason program. He finished strong in each drill, and has taken on a leadership role. Inside linebacker Reuben Foster has avoided injuries all spring, and senior cornerback Cyrus Jones along with outside linebacker Denzel Devall have been medically cleared to participate summer workouts.
Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine has compiled of list of five players that are poised for a breakout season this fall. The list includes a true freshman.
5. Dalvin Tomlinson
- Classification: Junior
- Size: 6-foot-3, 294 pounds
- Position: Defensive Line
Summary: Dalvin Tomlinson returned last season as an important contributor in Alabama’s rotation on the defensive line. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, during the first game of 2013, but totaled 22 tackles (eight solo), 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two quarterback hurries last season. Tomlinson is an exceptional run stuffer, but is starting to develop more as a pass rusher. He recorded two quarterback hurries in Alabama’s 2015 spring game. Tomlinson is a second-string player, but can crack the starting lineup with a good summer program and productive fall camp. He’s put in 26 tackles in 15 career games.
4. Bradley Bozeman
- Classification: Sophomore
- Size: 6-foot-5, 320 pounds
- Position: Offensive Line
Summary: Bradley Bozeman got his feet wet last season, filling in for center Ryan Kelly in Alabama’s meeting with Ole Miss. He saw action in nine games, and scratched out two starts against Arkansas and Texas A&M. Bozeman didn’t allow a sack against Texas A&M, and guided the Crimson Tide’s backs to 298 rushing yards. Bozeman’s looks to start at right guard, replacing Leon Brown. Junior Alphonse “Shank” Taylor and redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher are battling to start at left guard, beside sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson.
3. Ronnie Harrison
- Classification: Freshman
- Size: 6-foot-3, 218 pounds
- Position: Safety
Summary: 2015 could be the season that a freshman either starts or scratches out much playing time in Alabama’s secondary. With Landon Collins, Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams gone, there is a battle going on at both free and strong safety positions. Junior Eddie Jackson was transitioned from cornerback to safety this spring. He has the instincts of a free safety, but lacks an overall makeup for a strong safety. True freshman Ronnie Harrison looks the part.
Harrison, a consensus four-star prospect, enrolled early and has impressed the coaching staff. Coach Saban likes his size and athletic abilities. Harrison recorded one of six interceptions in the team’s spring game. He was a two-way player (quarterback, defensive back) at Florida State University School that finished with 14 career pass breakups. Jackson and senior defensive back Geno Smith may get the nod to start, but all eyes will be on Harrison this fall.
2. Reuben Foster
- Classification: Junior
- Size: 6-foot-1, 240 pounds
- Position: Inside Linebacker/Mike Linebacker
Summary: It is officially Reuben Foster’s time to shine. He’s played in 21 career games, but injuries have limited him for the most part. Foster accounted for 22 tackles, including eight on special teams (third-most) with two stops for loss and sack in 11 games last season. His hit on LSU’s running back Leonard Fournette was a catalyst in Alabama’s 20-13 overtime win.
Foster was the nation’s No.1 inside linebacker and a five-star recruit when he enrolled at Alabama in 2013. He’s tallied 34 tackles in his career, but has a chance for a huge season this fall. Foster has become an improved tackler, and has had a productive spring, according to Saban. He will share inside linebacker with senior Reggie Ragland and sophomore Shaun Dion Hamilton (base defense), but Foster is ready and looks to prove himself this fall.
1. Robert Foster
- Classification: Sophomore
- Size: 6-foot-2, 194 pounds
- Position: Wide Receiver
Summary: It didn’t take much to spark Robert Foster into action. A knee injury to Cam Sims has forced him to emerge. Alabama needs a vertical threat with Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones all gone. Foster has the capabilities to stretch the field and make plays in the passing game. He caught six passes for 44 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2014, but Saban and his staff has seen Foster become consistent this spring. He recorded six catches for 125 yards in Alabama’s spring game. Sophomore receiver ArDarius Stewart and junior tight end O.J. Howard both look to be important contributors in 2015, but will be imperative for Foster to be productive.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook and “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.