TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football has a manageable schedule for the 2017 season that features some of college football’s best talents.
Here’s a look at top individual players Alabama football will face this season.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
Derwin James is one of the top defensive backs and arguably one of the top players in the country.
James missed most of last season with a knee injury, but as a true freshman in 2015 he made 91 tackles and 4.5 sacks for the Seminoles.
NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks called James a mix of former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster and former LSU safety Jamal Adams. Both those players went in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Crimson Tide offense will want to know where James is at all times.
Alabama and Florida State play Sept. 2 in Atlanta.
Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
Florida State has another top player in its secondary. Tarvarus McFadden led the ACC and finished tied for No. 1 in the nation with 8 interceptions.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts must be careful when throwing at McFadden in the season opener.
Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State
Deondre Francois showed a lot of toughness last season because he took an absolute beating at times behind Florida State’s offensive line. Heading into his second year as the starter, Francois should improve.
Francois threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns to 7 interceptions last season.
This is going to be a tough challenge for Alabama’s defense right out of the gate.
Arden Key, OLB/DE, LSU
Arden Key took a leave of absence earlier this spring, but LSU coach Ed Orgeron expects him to be back with the team.
If so, Key is one of the top defenders in the SEC and all of college football. Key finished second in the SEC with 12 sacks last season.
LSU visits Alabama on Nov. 4.
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Leonard Fournette got all of the hype last year, and rightfully so, but Derrius Guice proved he can be a feature back when Fournette was out with injuries.
Guice is powerful, explosive and fast. He led the SEC with 1,387 rushing yards to go with 15 rushing touchdowns, which was second in the conference.
Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
Ole Miss is in a bit of turmoil with NCAA sanctions hanging over the program, but Greg Little is a great talent. He should face Alabama’s best pass rushers when the teams meet on Sept. 30.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Christian Kirk is an electric talent with a case for being the best wide receiver in the SEC, and one of the best in the country. He can hurt teams from the slot as well as on special teams.
As a true freshman two years ago, Kirk returned a punt for a touchdown against Alabama.
The Tide play at College Station on Oct. 7.
Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State
Many pundits believe Nick Fitzgerald is the best returning quarterback in the SEC. He led the conference with 16 rushing touchdowns to go with 1,375 rushing yards, which was second to LSU’s Guice.
He also threw for 2,423 yards and 21 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Alabama is at Mississippi State on Nov. 11.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Jarrett Stidham. He had a strong showing in Auburn’s spring game and has Tigers fans excited about the upcoming season. If he can translate that to games, Auburn could be the SEC contender so many analysts believe it should be.
The Iron Bowl will be played Nov. 25.
Ralph Webb, RB, Vanderbilt
Ralph Webb is one of the few players who can make Alabama-Vanderbilt interesting. He rushed for 1,283 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago.
It’ll be interesting to see if Vanderbilt’s offensive line can create holes for Webb against Alabama’s front seven when the teams meet on Sept. 23.