Teams are reporting this week, with Alabama set to begin preseason practice Friday. And with practice beginnings, the games are close enough to touch.
Throughout the summer, we’ve broke down returning players who will have an impact and given a glimpse of which lesser known players could have breakout seasons.
Now, the Anniston Star is examining the new faces. Here are five newcomers who should be fun to see this fall:
O.J. Howard, tight end: Howard could be one of the most versatile weapons in the entire Nick Saban era at Alabama. The key will be whether the Tide decides to have Howard bulk up to play more tight end or if they’ll use him on the outside, like a wide receiver. Think of the mismatches the 6-foot-5 Howard will create if split out wide against a safety.
Alabama doesn’t have great depth at the tight end or the H-back position so Howard should see the field early.
Derrick Henry, running back: Senior linebacker C.J. Mosley was quoted as saying Derrick Henry “killed” the Tide’s fourth-quarter conditioning program. Think about that. The fourth-quarter program is designed, in part, to give high school players a glimpse of how different college football is.
But all signs point to Henry being well equipped to make a seamless transition from high school. He is coming off a leg injury, but his high school coach thinks he could come back stronger.
Henry will have a lot of competition if he hopes to earn the second running back spot behind T.J. Yeldon, but his competitors don’t weigh 240 pounds or run a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.
Robert Foster, wide receiver: Scouts have said Foster is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He seems to have it all -- speed, hands and route running. Foster was the No. 1 wide receiver in the Tide’s 2013 recruiting class. Alabama is loaded at receiver this season, but with Foster’s ability, it will be tough to keep him off the field if he is learning the system.
Reuben Foster, linebacker: Foster may serve the Tide as a run-stuffer early on. He’s a bruiser who could be used sparingly while he learns the entire system. Foster is helped by having returning starters C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest to learn from. Scouting services note Foster will have to get better in pass coverage, but with more talent around him, he won’t have to be a superhero on the field as he was in high school.
Jonathan Allen, defensive end: The talent lost on the offensive line gets the headlines, but Alabama is retooling its defensive line as well. Guys such as Jesse Williams and Damion Square are veterans who will be missed. So with the departures come vacancies and battles for playing time.
Insert Jonathan Allen, who could push his way into the defensive rotation and make an impact off the edge. The online recruiting service 247Sports rated Allen as a five-star prospect and noted he is most effective when rushing from the weakside. Even if Allen isn’t a three-down player immediately, he could be a situational weapon for the Tide on third down.