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Alabama Football: Five redshirt freshmen to watch in 2020 season

Nick Saban and Alabama run on to the field during 2017 season
Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

Whether they sat the whole season and learned the offense or played in four games prior to getting redshirted, Alabama has a few second-year freshmen prepared to show the college football world who they are in the fall.

After hearing Dr. Stuart Bell — president of the University of Alabama — announce a football season is scheduled for this year, fans are highly excited.  

The Crimson Tide’s first game is set for Sept. 5 versus USC at AT&T Stadium. 

RELATED: Previewing Alabama’s marquee opponents for 2020 season: Georgia Bulldogs

Despite so many upperclassmen returning and true freshmen ready to work, yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine breaks down five redshirt freshmen to watch. 

Trey Sanders – RB

Regardless of its three true freshmen running backs, Tide fans have been waiting to see Trey Sanders run wild at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

A foot injury in August camp kept him from seeing the field last year, but the native Floridian is healthy now.

The 6-foot, 214-pounder was explosive at both Port Saint Joe (Fla.) High School and IMG Academy, garnering attention as a five-star. 

He may not resemble a former Alabama back; however, two National Football League stars come to mind for Sanders: Ezekiel Elliot and Alvin Kamara.

He has the lower body strength, stiff arm and pad level of Elliot, while exhibiting the explosiveness of Kamara in space. 

Sanders was prepared to take carries away from Najee Harris and Brian Robinson in 2019, yet he will be fine with joining Harris as Alabama’s “thunder and lightning” in the backfield.  

Pierce Quick – OL 

After being a dominant offensive tackle/guard at Hewitt-Trussville (Ala.) High School, Pierce Quick played in four games in 2019. During his 19 snaps with the second-team offensive line, the four-star helped Keilan Robinson record a 74-yard touchdown run versus New Mexico State. 

He protected his Alabama teammate in Paul Tyson at Hewitt-Trussville, and assisted him to more than 6,500 passing yards with 69 touchdowns. With Quick up front, Tyson compiled a record of 19-5 as the starting quarterback. According to Rudy Griffin, former Huskies defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, Quick will be a ‘future first-round pick.’ 

Griffin sees the talented lineman playing three years for the Tide. 

RELATED: Previewing Alabama’s marquee opponents for 2020 season: USC Trojans

The 6-foot-5, 291-pounder is one of the meanest guys on the field and will be a nightmare to handle at either left or right guard. Quick, like others, has been following the training regimen from coaches David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea.

Per former Tide receiver, Mac Hereford, the workouts have been helping Quick and he anticipates being heavily used in the rotation. 

Saban wants to get back to control the pace of games. Keep your eyes on Quick.  

Kevin Harris II – LB

He spent all of last season getting personal coaching from Sal Sunseri. 

Even with the attention that William Anderson, Drew Sanders, Chris Braswell and Quandarrius Robinson are drawing, Kevin Harris II has a leg up on all of them. A native of Loganville, Ga., Harris came to Alabama as a four-star and one of the top defensive linemen prospects. 

He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, but he’s gained weight since his arrival. 

Harris got better with his pass rush moves and setting the edge in learning from Sunseri, Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis.

Whether he plays at strong-side or jack linebacker, he’ll maneuver his way on to the field.  

Brandon Turnage – DB

Alabama lost four defensive backs to the National Football League and Brandon Turnage is about to snatch his moment.

He did much of his production in practice last season, as the native Mississippian was around Nick Saban, Karl Scott and Charles Kelly.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has the speed to play cornerback, but his size may relegate him to safety.

He played in one game against Western Carolina on senior day at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but did not record any stats. 

Turnage has been training with former Tide standout, Justin Woodall. 

A fellow native of Oxford, Miss., Woodall graduated from the same high school as Turnage (Lafayette High School) and became a fixture in Alabama’s secondary. He played in 45 career games at safety – including 14 in the program’s BCS National Championship season in 2009. 

Woodall collected 45 tackles, five pass breakups and three interceptions. 

When he was featured on In My Own Words, Woodall said Turnage is a ‘real athletic guy with instincts.’ 

“He’s a fast kid,” Woodall said. “He can play defensive back and receiver. He’ll be a real ball hawk.” 

While it continues to stockpile defensive backs each recruiting class, Turnage is ready to put the Crimson Tide and its fan base on notice. 

Ishmael Sopsher – DL 

Behind DJ Dale, Alabama has a fight on its hands at defensive tackle. 

It signed Timothy Smith, Jamil Burroughs and Jah-Marien Latham in this class; however, Ishmael Sopsher was one of six defensive linemen signed in the 2019 recruiting cycle.

He hails from the same high school as teammate DeVonta Smith, Amite (La.) High School, and will work with Freddie Roach as his position coach.

Sopsher ate up double teams in high school, totaling 78 tackles (35 for loss), 12 sacks, eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a senior. 

He helped the Warriors to a Class 2A State Championship for the Louisiana High School Athletics Association.

The 6-foot-4, 334-pounder is a strong two-gap defender that Saban can develop into an interior pass rusher. Sopsher got better in practice under Brian Baker as the season progressed, so look for him to take flight under Roach. He played in one game last year versus Western Carolina, but he is prepared to fend off the incoming talent at nose tackle. 

RS Freshman “sleeper” for 2020: Paul Tyson 

He has not only filled out his body (6-5/235), but Paul Tyson has been dominating the offseason program of Ballou and Rhea. The former four-star has full understanding of the playbook and arguably has the strongest arm on the team.

No one talks a lot about Tyson; nevertheless, respectable sources told yours truly to ‘not be surprised if he starts a game.’  

In reflecting back to a conversation with Rudy Griffin, he said Tyson will take the game by storm if he gets an opportunity.

RELATED: ESPN projects Alabama to win 11 games in 2020, but where is the loss?

As the great-grandson of Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, all Tyson wants is a chance to show what he can do on the field.  

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

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