TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — You know the star players for Alabama, the guys who are garnering all of the headlines this offseason.
Here are a few candidates who could have breakout seasons this year.
Foster was on his way to a breakout season last year before a shoulder injury in Week 3 against Ole Miss sidelined him for the season.
Foster caught touchdown passes in both games he played while healthy. If he can stay injury free, look for him to do more of the same.
Foster is a gifted athlete with great speed. He has good hands and good size at 6-foot-2, 191 pounds.
He returns to what may be the best receiver group in the country, joining Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and O.J. Howard.
If teams pay too much attention to Ridley or Howard, Foster could torch some one-on-one matchups.
Christian Miller/Anfernee Jennings
One of — or both — of these linebackers could be the next Tim Williams. Not because they’ll post 10.5 sacks, but because Alabama needs young pass rushers to step up.
With Williams and Ryan Anderson moving into full-time starting roles, there’s room for guys like Miller and Jennings to serve as third-down, pass-rushing specialists.
Williams thrived in that role last season, and there’s nothing to suggest that both Miller and Jennings couldn’t do the same if given the opportunity.
Miller is listed at 6-4, 230 pounds. He has long arms and uses his quickness to get around offensive tackles.
Jennings is listed at 6-3, 268 pounds. He’s more of a powerful rusher.
Each had three sacks while working with the second-team defense during Alabama’s A-Day scrimmage.
“(Miller’s) got some pass rush ability,” Saban said at the time. “Anfernee Jennings probably has improved as much as anybody over the course of this spring practice. He has the opportunity because last year he was hurt. He missed part of the season. When he came back he was just a part of the scout team. So he was starting a pretty much ground zero in terms of his knowledge. He had really made a lot of progress and so has Christian. I think it’s important for us that those guys continue to develop and can play winning football for us (this) year.”
Hand spent the first two years of his career playing a limited role behind older teammates. That changes this season as Hand likely moves into a starting defensive end spot.
Hand could have an impact similar to Jonathan Allen’s last season. Hand is explosive enough to get after the quarterback and big enough to hold up against the run.
As a sophomore last season, Hand made 16 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks.
With his potential, don’t be surprised if Hand is being mentioned as a first- or second-round draft pick after this season.
Moving to inside linebacker makes Evans one of the more intriguing players on Alabama’s defense this season.
Evans is an incredible athlete who can do a little bit of everything. Playing the Will linebacker spot in Alabama’s nickel package would allow the Crimson Tide to use Evans’ cover skills. He also could rush the passer from the middle to keep defenses off balance.
Last season, Alabama used Evans in multiple roles including as a spy against mobile quarterbacks. He finished the year with four sacks despite playing mostly in third-down situations.
The best game of his young career came in Alabama’s national championship win over Clemson. Evans had 3 tackles and sacked quarterback Deshaun Watson twice.
Evans could be the most versatile inside linebacker Alabama has had since C.J. Mosley. In his first game action at inside linebacker, Evans had 17 tackles and a sack in Alabama’s A-Day scrimmage.
During the spring, Saban flat out said that Cotton is one of Alabama’s five best offensive linemen.
That’s high praise, but the problem is finding a place to put him. Cotton can play left guard, right guard and right tackle, but he’ll likely end up playing guard long term. Cotton worked at left guard with the first-team offense during A-Day.