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Alabama Football Impact Players

Alabama football: Top five most important players heading into 2017 season

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

One week of spring practice will remain for the University of Alabama football team, following its second scrimmage on Friday. Though much anticipation is in store for the A-Day game, which is scheduled for April 22 at 2:00 p.m., head coach Nick Saban is focused on preparing this group for the upcoming 2017 season.

In its 11th year reloading under Saban, the Crimson Tide expects to win the Southeastern Conference and make its fourth straight trip to the College Football Playoff. Despite having to locate more impact stars along its defensive front, Alabama returns five guys that will be viewed as leaders.

Yours truly of TDAL Magazine reveals the five most important Tide players for the fall.

5. JK Scott|SR|Punter

“Any possession that ends in a punt, field goal or extra point is a good one.”-Nick Saban

He’s stuck to this script since arriving at Tuscaloosa in 2007, and don’t think the Alabama football coach is moving away from it. JK Scott returned to his freshman form last season, averaging 47.2 yards a punt on 64 attempts. While 29 of his boots traveled in excess of 50 yards, he limited opponents from returning 27 punts (42.2 percent) due to touchbacks and fair catches. He enters the fall semester with something to prove, seeing that he was not a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award — after dropping 25 balls inside the 20-yard line in 2016.

4. Calvin Ridley|JR|Wide receiver

Calvin Ridley assumes the role of “go to” wide receiver for Jalen Hurts, following ArDarius Stewart’s departure to the NFL Draft. After totaling 769 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 72 catches in 2016, the rising junior anticipates returning the 1,000-yard mark from his freshman year.

3. Minkah Fitzpatrick|JR|Defensive back

Regardless of his desires to be an outside cornerback, Minkah Fitzpatrick could be moved around quite a bit in the secondary. He achieved success at star – nickel and dime – and safety a year ago, filling in admirably for an injured Eddie Jackson. In two seasons, he’s posted 111 total tackles, three sacks, 18 pass breakups and eight interceptions (four touchdowns). Should the Tide’s defensive front lack a fierce pass rush, Fitzpatrick and company must force turnovers with eye discipline and breaking on passes at the right time.

2. Jalen Hurts|SOPH|Quarterback

He navigated Alabama to an SEC championship and a Peach Bowl Trophy, upon him earning the starting job in week two of the 2016 season. Jalen Hurts ended the year as the conference’s Freshman of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, amassing 2,780 passing yards, 954 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.

Now, the sophomore quarterback is expected to prove that he can be lethal with both his arm and legs.

1. Bradley Bozeman|RS SR|Offensive line

Having Bradley Bozeman not declare for the NFL Draft was one of the biggest wins for Alabama. He returns to captain an offensive line with two others starters in Ross Pierschbacher and Jonah Williams.

With Saban and position coach Brent Key working on the right side of this unit, Bozeman’s leadership at center should create a smooth adjustment. He cleared the way for four 500-yard rushers, a 1,000-yard rusher (Damien Harris), 33 rushing scores, 455.3 yards of total offense and 38.8 points a game as a redshirt junior.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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