Former Alabama standouts Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and Julio Jones all started contributing as freshman, due to hard work and capabilities.
A new wave of talent will suit up this season, as the Crimson Tide looks for five freshmen to make a solid impact on offense. Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine has compiled a list of the top five newcomers that can be difference makers on Alabama’s offense in 2015.
5. David Cornwell/ Blake Barnett
- Position: Quarterback/Quarterback
- Size: 6-foot-5, 221 pounds/6-foot-5, 208 pounds
- Hometown: Norman, Okla./Corona, Calif.
Summary: Head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin both want Jake Coker to obtain the starting job at quarterback, but it’s always good to have a Plan B.
Redshirt freshman David Cornwell and true freshman Blake Barnett stand as the other two 6-foot-5 signal callers in this competition. Saturday’s scrimmage game will narrow the battle from five quarterbacks to two or three. Both Cornwell and Barnett have strong arms and mobility.
Cornwell was one of the top pro-style quarterbacks nationally upon enrolling at Alabama in January 2014. He was a consensus four-star prospect that totaled 2,742 passing yards with 27 touchdowns in 2013 as a junior at Norman North High School. ESPN 300 ranked Cornwell as the No.4 pocket passer; however, he possesses good footwork to extend plays.
Cornwell accounted for 755 rushing yards and six touchdowns at Norman North.
Barnett completely fits Kiffin’s offensive scheme. He was listed as the No.1-ranked pocket passer by ESPN and the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback, according to Rivals.com.
Barnett tossed for a career-high 3,404 passing yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games last season as a senior at Santiago High School in Corona, Calif.
He put in 479 rushing yards and seven scores. Barnett enrolled at Alabama as a consensus five-star prospect, the highest rating for Alabama quarterback. He was the most valuable player of the 2014 Elite 11 competition.
4. Deionte Thompson
- Position: Wide receiver
- Size: 6-foot-2, 183 pounds
- Hometown: Orange, Texas
Summary: He came in as a four-star safety, but Thompson has adjusted to being a wide receiver. He was transitioned in spring practice, after sophomore Cam Sims hurt his knee.
Thompson juggled both defensive back and wide receiver at West Orange-Stark High School.
He totaled 15 career interceptions and caught 37 passes for 692 yards and four touchdowns. Thompson’s speed and athleticism is dangerous on special teams.
Coach Saban experimented with him on kick return in Alabama’s spring game. He has a good catching radius, yet needs to be more patient in route running. Thompson’s big play abilities could grant him time this year.
3. Ross Pierschbacher
- Position: Offensive guard
- Size: 6-foot-4, 298 pounds
- Hometown: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Summary: It may be too early to tell, but Pierschbacher has a Barrett Jones-esque ceiling.
After redshirting last season, Pierschbacher is challenging junior Alphonse Taylor for a starting job at left guard. He won the spot over Taylor in the spring, and continues to have an edge.
Pierschbacher’s diversity allows him to play at both guard and tackle. He enrolled at Alabama as a consensus four-star recruit. ESPN ranked him as the No.3 offensive guard and the top-ranked player in Iowa. Rivals listed the redshirt freshman as the No.8 offensive tackle.
2. Calvin Ridley
- Position: Wide receiver
- Size: 6-foot-1, 188 pounds
- Hometown: Coconut Creek, Fla.
Summary: He is the receiver that every Alabama fan is anxious to see inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. Ridley is a consensus five-star prospect, who was a marquee name at Monarch High School. He chimed in with 1,100 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 40 catches in 2013.
His age (19 years, 9 months) limited him to only three games in his senior year, but Ridley excelled in “The Opening” competition and the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game.
He is expected to be the next Amari Cooper and Kiffin’s third Biletnikoff Award winner.
1. Damien Harris
- Position: Running back
- Size: 5-foot-11, 205 pounds
- Hometown: Berea, Ky.
Summary: Kentucky native and former Alabama great Shaun Alexander has already given Harris his blessing. He logged 6,717 career rushing yards and 111 touchdowns at Madison Southern High School. Harris put on a clinic in the All-America game, totaling 122 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He enrolled at Alabama in May as a consensus five-star prospect.
Coach Saban expects a solid contribution from Harris, due to the lack of depth at running back.
The Crimson Tide lost T.J. Yeldon to the NFL, and Tyren Jones was dismissed back in March. Alabama’s 2013 recruiting class brought in four running backs, yet Derrick Henry is the one that remains.
True freshman Desherrius Flowers won’t suit up this season (academically ineligible), and Bo Scarbrough will serve a four-game suspension, as he continues rehabbing from a knee injury.
Scarbrough is set to play in October, but until then, Alabama wants Harris to spell Henry as much as possible. Senior running back Kenyan Drake will see time in the backfield because of his experience, but Kiffin will use him more so at receiver. Harris’ time is now.