Editor’s note: Coming off its fourth national championship in seven seasons, Alabama returns a ton of talent, and has a great opportunity to repeat as champions in 2016.
Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take a look at Alabama’s 25 most important players. Obviously, there’ll be coaches and other key members around the program who’ll have a big impact on the team’s success. But this list is strictly for the top 25 players for the Crimson Tide heading into 2016.
8. O.J. Howard
Coming off the national championship game, Howard appeared to be a candidate for “strike while the iron is hot” for the NFL draft. Howard was named offensive player of the game after catching five passes for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns in Alabama’s national championship win over Clemson.
But the Prattville, Ala., native decided to return for his senior season in hopes of improving his draft stock and defending Alabama’s title.
Last season, Howard caught 38 passes for 602 yards and two scores. But there’s still plenty of untapped potential inside the 6-foot-6, 242-pound tight end.
If Alabama and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin can figure out how to consistently involve Howard, the Crimson Tide offense has the playmakers to be one of the more explosive units in the country.
Howard working the middle of the field or split out wide should create space for receivers like Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart to operate without dealing with double teams.
However, that’s a big if. For the last three seasons, Alabama fans have clamored for more play calls for Howard and more production from the freakishly athletic tight end.
Is this the year Kiffin gets him involved? Will Howard find a way to carve out a role for himself and make an impact in each game?
We’ll find those answers during the season, but Howard didn’t return to be an athletic decoy.
It was kind of a decision where I thought I had so much left on the table in college. How I can mature on and off the field. It really wasn’t a hard decision at the end of the day. (My family and I) thought about it a lot. — Howard on why he returned from his senior season
Coming Thursday: An explosive wide receiver
- No. 9 Eddie Jackson
- No. 10 Marlon Humphrey
- No. 11 Minkah Fitzpatrick
- No. 12 Cooper Bateman/David Cornwell/Blake Barnett/Jalen Hurts
- No. 13 Robert Foster
- No. 14 Da’Shawn Hand
- No. 15 Da’Ron Payne
- No. 16 ArDarius Stewart
- No. 17 Shaun Dion Hamilton
- No. 18 Dalvin Tomlinson
- No. 19 Ronnie Harrison
- No. 20 Ross Pierschbacher
- No. 21 Lester Cotton
- No. 22 JK Scott
- No. 23 Rashaan Evans
- No. 24 Jonah Williams
- No. 25 Adam Griffith