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10 Alabama signees with the best chance to make an immediate impact

Alabama 2015 top recruits

The 2015 Alabama signing class can be described in the same way the rest of Nick Saban’s signing classes have been — elite. The Tide’s latest crop of recruits once again ranks at the top of nearly every recruiting service’s list.

But which players out of this 2015 signing class have the best chance to make an immediate impact?

First, let’s take a quick look back at last year’s signing class for some recent history on what kind of impact a first-year player typically has in Saban’s system. The Tide signed 26 players in the 2014 signing class. Of those 26 players, 2 were not on the team, 10 redshirted, 5 played in late game “mop up” duty, 5 were role players or relied on as backups, and 4 were starters (2 of which were junior college transfers).

To predict which players will make the most noise, we need to take a close look at what positions are open, and what competition exists for the incoming freshman.

The Tide unofficially “started” 15 guys on 2014’s offense, and will return just 5 of those 15. Bama will be breaking in 3 new starters on the offensive line — both guard spots and right tackle, as well as finding a new tight end, full back/h-back, running back, quarterback, and filling all 3 receiver spots.

Returning starters include left tackle Cam Robinson, center Ryan Kelly, tight end OJ Howard, running back Derrick Henry, and multi-purpose back Kenyan Drake. 10 other guys played a role or filled in as a substitute at different times throughout the 2014 season, including guard/center Bradley Bozeman, right guard Alphonse Taylor, right tackle Grant Hill, tight end Brandon Greene, receivers Cam Sims, ArDarius Stewart, Chris Black, and Raheem Falkins, running back Tyren Jones, and quarterback Jake Coker.

Fortunately for Alabama, Unlike the offense, the 2015 defense will return a lot of experience. Bama “started” 17 players on defense in 2014, and return 12 of those 17, losing starters at both safety positions, the “money” position, inside linebacker, and nose guard. Bama returns 5 of the 6 defensive lineman that were in the regular rotation last season, Jonathan Allen, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, DJ Pettway, and Dalvin Tomlinson. Returning starting outside linebackers include Denzel DeVall and Dillon Lee, with Reggie Ragland returning on the inside. The secondary returns Cyrus Jones, Eddie Jackson, Geno Smith, and Jabriel Washington. Several other guys return to next years team that saw critical game action in ’14, including: defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand, nose guard Darren Lake, outside linebackers Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans, inside linebackers Reuben Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton, “star” defensive back Mo Smith, and corners Tony Brown and Bradley Sylve.

Based on the positions that are open, here are our top 10 signee’s with a chance to make an impact during the 2015 season.

10. Joshua McMillan, 6’3″ 246 pound LB from Memphis, Tennessee. Inside Linebacker is not a position where a true freshman will likely be able to walk in and start, but it is a position in need of added depth, and McMillan will be relied on to provide it. He’s a guy to watch on special teams as well.

9. Lester Cotton: 6’4″ 321 pound OL from Tuscaloosa, AL. Cotton is a big time talent who projects best as a guard in college. However, considering Bama’s numbers at offensive tackle, we could see him start out at tackle. Lester will have the opportunity to avoid a redshirt, and could be relied on to provide depth at tackle.

8. Hale Hentges, 6’4″ 228 pound TE from Jefferson City, Missouri. Hentges may not be ideal size-wise in year one, but the Tide is thin at TE, and may be forced to rely on him to play a part in filling the void left by Brian Vogler and Jalston Fowler.

7. Desherrius Flowers, 6’0″ 212 pound RB from Prichard, Alabama. While he might get a look at safety, benefiting from enrolling early and having extra time in the strength and conditioning program, it’s more likely that he will be groomed for the FB/HB role that Jalston Fowler played. He and Redshirt freshman Ronnie Clark are both candidates to fill some pretty big shoes left by Fowler. This is an interesting one because I believe he will have an impact next season, but it could be in a number of different ways, and we won’t know until spring exactly what the coaches are planning on doing with him.

6. Daylon Charlot, 6’0″ 175 pound WR from Patterson, Louisiana. Charlot will provide depth at WR and may develop a role in the offense as the year goes on, but his biggest opportunity to make an early impact could be in the return game.

5. Deionte Thompson, 6’1″ 175 pound DB from Orange, Texas. Thompson is another early enrollee in the secondary where there is plenty of opportunity. He can play corner or safety. It will be worth watching what the coaches do with him during spring practice. Regardless, expect to see him on the field in 2015, though it might be mostly on special teams.

4. Bo Scarbrough, 6’2″ 235 pound RB from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Bo originally signed with the 2014 class, but did not qualify in time for last season. He enrolled for the spring semester and practiced with the team in Tuscaloosa during Sugar Bowl preparation. Scarbrough is a freak athlete with a unique skill set for his size. Running back isn’t exactly an open position heading into 2015, but Bo can be used in a variety of ways, and it will be surprising if he does not play on special teams, as well as developing into a role player on offense.

3. Jonathan Taylor, 6’5″ 335 pound NG from Millen, Georgia. Taylor is a junior college transfer and early enrollee at a position where the tide will be replacing last year’s starter, Brandon Ivory. Taylor’s signing was controversial due to off-the-field issues, but the reason the Bama staff stuck with him will be apparent against pro style offenses.

2. Ronnie Harrison, 6’2″ 192 pound DB from Tallahassee, Florida. Harrison can play either corner or safety, but safety is likely where we will see him. Not only is he at a position that is wide open heading into the spring, he also has the advantage of enrolling early, which has proven over recent years to be a huge boost for incoming freshman.

1. Calvin Ridley, 6’0″ 178 pound WR from Coconut Creek, Florida. Bama has talent already on campus at WR, but none of them have much game experience, and losing 3 starters at this position will mean opportunity for a guy like Ridley, who has a similar skill set to Amari Cooper.

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