Time to hit the reset button as Alabama goes for No. 17.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, athletic director Bill Battle and the players will celebrate its 16th national championship Saturday with a parade in Tuscaloosa. Festivities will happen on the outside, but internally Alabama is already plotting its next national title contention. Offensively, it loses Jacob Coker, Derrick Henry, Richard Mullaney, Ryan Kelly and Dominick Jackson, yet the Tide still has talent returning.
Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine reveals the five players that are set to have an impact on offense next season.
5. Robert Foster- Wide receiver, Redshirt Sophomore
Foster was starting to come into his own as a vertical wide out, until he suffered a season-ending injury against Ole Miss (rotator cuff). A former five-star prospect, Foster possesses balance, speed and body control within his 6-foot-2 frame.
He and fellow sophomore ArDarius Stewart emerged together back in March 2015. The two excelled in Alabama’s spring game, earning most valuable player honors. Foster recorded his first collegiate touchdown of his career against Wisconsin. He brought in a 22-yard pass from Coker, giving Alabama a 7-0 advantage.
Foster would tack on another touchdown against Middle Tennessee State, ending his season with 10 catches for 116 yards and two scores. He accepted a medical redshirt, which grants him the 2015 season back. His size and play making abilities make him a solid post to deep ball pattern weapon.
With him returning and Stewart continuing to grow, Calvin Ridley becomes interchangeable. The freshman was worked at the one (X) and in the slot this season, but having Foster back allows Ridley to line up at either both vertical spots, the slot or come in motion out the backfield. Creating separation is brings success to a receiver. Foster, Stewart and possibly Cam Sims (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) would draw much attention, giving Ridley more one-on-one chances.
4. Cameron Robinson, Left tackle- Junior
Robinson’s sophomore year did not go as good as planned; however, the Louisiana native improved as the season went on. He battled knee and ankle injuries, which plagued his footwork and caused some poor performances early on.
Robinson started to regain his confidence in Alabama’s top-5 meeting against Louisiana State University. He blocked for 250 rushing yards (Derrick Henry, 210) and three touchdowns. Robinson did not allow a sack, giving Coker a chance to complete 75 percent of his throws. He would grade out at 90 percent or higher against Mississippi State, Charleston Southern and Florida, paving the way for 663 rushing yards and eight touchdowns combined. Robinson set the edge in Henry’s record-setting Iron Bowl as he totaled 271 rushing yards and a touchdown on a school-record 46 carries.
Robinson is now the leader of the Crimson Tide’s offensive line with Ryan Kelly and Dominick Jackson both gone.
He will be the one recognizing all protection schemes to create the best opportunities in run and pass blocking. Staying healthy will be a crucial factor for Robinson.
3. O.J. Howard, Tight end- Senior
Postseason action may have been what the doctor ordered to open the eyes of Saban and Kiffin to Howard. He was non-existent in the regular season with 33 catches for 394 yards.
The 6-foot-6, 242-pound tight end exploded in the playoff for 267 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions.
Howard ran wild in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, totaling five receptions for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 41.6 yards per catch, with both touchdowns coming in excess of 50 yards.
His decision to return for a senior year makes for a smart business move and also a chance to have the offense built around him. Whoever becomes Alabama’s quarterback next season will need to identify Howard.
2. Bo Scarbrough, Running back- Sophomore
The homegrown legend is set to be Alabama’s featured back next season. Scarbrough finished with the highest yards per carry average in 2015 (5.78) and scored his first touchdown against Charleston Southern. Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing 240 pounds, Scarbrough was a five-star recruit upon leaving Northridge High School and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.).
He collected 938 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns at Northridge, while accounting for 1,468 yards rushing and 20 scores in 10 games at IMG Academy. Being the next in line behind Derrick Henry will be a hard act to follow, yet Scarbrough is up for challenge. It will be his show in 2016.
1. Blake Barnett, Quarterback- Redshirt freshman
Lane Kiffin’s handpicked California man is the frontrunner for next season’s quarterback job.
Barnett has been impressive emulating opposing signal-callers on scout team and he is starting to put on more weight. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, former Alabama defensive coordinator, raved about the freshman’s toughness during bowl prep. Departing linebacker Reggie Ragland said “Barnett is going to be a monster,” per Matt Zenitz of AL.com.
He was a Crimson Tide first in 2015, enrolling at the Capstone as a five-star prospect.
Barnett shredded competition at Santiago High School with a career-high 3,404 passing yards and 23 touchdowns.
He was listed as the top-ranked dual threat quarterback nationally, according to Rivals.com. Barnett chimed in with 695 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2014.