Alabama Football: 2014 Signees Who Likely Won't See Field Until Junior Season
There's a difference between "over-signing" and signing with quality and depth, and Alabama football does the latter.
That is a very good thing for the program, since it almost always ensures one of the best rosters in the country. However, it's often bad for the individual players, who might not see the field as early or in as big of a role as they might have preferred or been able to at another school.
No matter his star level, no recruit becomes an immediate "program changer" in Tuscaloosa, where changing the program would actually be a bad thing. Instead, they become valuable cogs in a machine that preaches patience and repetition before starting games.
Thus, to say an Alabama player won't see the field until his junior year is not an insult.
Au contraire, it is actually a pretty big compliment.
No matter his age, anyone who can play a vital role for Nick Saban's team must be a heck of a football player, as made explicitly clear in the seven seasons since he was hired by the Crimson Tide.
There's no shame in having to wait your turn.
Note: All recruiting information via the 247Sports composite.
QB David Cornwell
Assuming that neither David Cornwell nor Blake Sims wins the job out of fall camp, whoever starts at quarterback for Alabama this year will have at least another year of eligibility remaining in 2015.
Despite being behind in the system, my prediction is Florida State transplant Jacob Coker, who will at least be familiar with the defense he's facing in practice since former 'Noles coordinator Jeremy Pruitt helped build it under Nick Saban between 2007 and 2012.
That leaves Cornwell waiting a couple of years behind Coker, who I don't think will play poorly enough to surrender the job or well enough to declare for the NFL draft. Some of the other quarterbacks are sure to transfer too, clearing the way from a potential logjam his junior year.
Look for Cornwell and his cannon-sized right arm to start in 2016.
ATH Bo Scarbrough
According to Andrew Gribble of AL.com, Bo Scarbrough will begin his career as a running back, though he is more than capable of playing receiver or tight end.
That always seemed to be Scarbrough's preferred position, which should, at first, make him happy. But talented as the rusher might be, it means he will likely need to bide his time before seeing the field in a vital capacity.
Rising sophomore Derrick Henry is the all-time leading rusher in high school football history, and he looked every bit that dominant against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
He and T.J. Yeldon will dominate the carries in 2014 and Henry, whose frame and running style are similar to Scarbrough's, will be around to occupy the same role the following season.
If Lane Kiffin gets creative, Scarbrough might see the field in other spots these next two years, perhaps in some sort of hybrid H-back role that no one else on the team is capable of playing. But Kiffin is pretty devout in what he does offensively, so even that seems improbable.
Unless Scarbrough changes positions full time, it likely won't be until Henry leaves—or worse, until Henry gets hurt—that he will be able to make a sizable impact on the offense.
WR Derek Kief
Alabama brings back solid receiving depth in 2014, losing Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell but retaining Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, Christion Jones, Chris Black and tight end O.J. Howard.
It will be hard for any true freshmen to crack the lineup.
In 2015, though, many of those players are expected to be gone, opening up room for some underclassmen contributors.
Especially on the outside in the role of "tall red-zone threat," one of Alabama's two 4-star receivers, Derek Kief (6'5'') and Cameron Sims (6'4'') has a chance to see the field.
This prediction says that Sims will beat out Kief for the spot. Sims is the higher-rated prospect and the only one of the duo that enrolled early to participate in spring practice, giving him a head start on learning Kiffin's offense.
However, if Kief develops at a better rate than expected, it could be he who occupies that role in 2015 and Sims who fades to the background. Either way, it will be tough for these two similar niche players to share the field consistently in Tuscaloosa.
C Joshua Casher & JC Hassenauer
Ryan Kelly enjoyed a solid sophomore year in the middle of Alabama's offensive line, especially considering the fact that he was tasked with replacing All-American Barrett Jones, who might well be named a College Football Hall of Famer at some point in the distant future.
Now entering his junior year, however, Kelly does not seem the type of prospect who leaves early to pursue the NFL. Not because he can't, necessarily, but simply because a gut instinct tells me he won't.
If that is indeed the case, blue-chip centers JC Hassenauer and Joshua Casher—the two top-rated players at their position this cycle—will not have a chance to start playing meaningful reps until 2016, unless one or both is able to make a switch to guard and plays well enough to demand a starting job.
Both are talented enough to do that, but considering the depth and talent Alabama attracts in the trenches, it seems a little farfetched.
OLB Ronnie Clark
Auburn drew the shortest straw when 5-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans committed to Alabama on national signing day.
Ronnie Clark's straw was a close second.
The No. 5 outside linebacker in the entire class of 2014, Clark is only the third-highest ranked outside linebacker committed to Alabama this cycle. That doesn't consign him, necessarily, to a future riding the pine behind Christian Miller and Evans, but it certainly doesn't help.
The move of Jonathan Allen to defensive end should help clear the way for this year's outside linebackers, but it's not entirely clear what the future holds for any of them. With guys like Dillon Lee, Xzavier Dickson and Denzel Devall on the roster, there is already a firm, established pecking order at the Sam and Jack linebacker spots.
Scouting is also an imperfect science; for all we know, Clark might be the best of the bunch on the outside this cycle. But given everything they produced on tape during high school, there's no reason to believe that Miller and Evans aren't ahead of him in line.