Alabama Football: Summertime Is the Time for Some Crimson Tide Players
The music group War had a very popular take on summer, with a song going by the same name proclaiming: “Summertime is the best time any place,” and “Yes, it's summer. My time of year."
In Tuscaloosa, though, it’ll be a key time for numerous University of Alabama football players who are trying to either win or hold on to roles with the Crimson Tide. Although the team won’t officially be together again until camp opens in August, a lot of what happens in the fall will actually be determined by how hard the players work in June and July.
A good example is with Geno Smith, the converted cornerback who is trying to win the starting free safety job. He’s played in 25 games over the past two years, with two starts as the nickel defender, and is the leading candidate to replace All-American Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
“Geno's had a really good spring,” Nick Saban said during a press conference last month. “He's really been active and played well at safety. I still think that sometimes he's a little bit uncertain of what to do. Sometimes he's a little bit uncertain of exactly how to do it. But that's why we'll practice, and he can study himself this summer and work on some things this summer, as well as in fall camp and hopefully we'll be able to make progress with him.
“He's certainly got the ability, and I think he can make a huge impact for us next year if we can get him feeling comfortable and confident in everything that he's expected to do.”
Here are some others who need a good summer, beginning with the most obvious selection.
1. Jacob Coker
After graduating from Florida State, which, per NCAA rules, makes him eligible to play at another school this fall because he has two years of eligibility remaining, Jacob Coker began his crash course on the Alabama offense earlier this month.
The good news for him is that the Seminoles play a similar style, which will help shorten the learning curve, but the Crimson Tide also have a new offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin.
Coach Nick Saban has been telling reporters during his ongoing Crimson Caravan speaking tour that it’s a three-man competition to start among Coker, senior Blake Sims and redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman.
“I'm ready for him to get here and make ’Bama even much better as a team and bring his personality and make everybody smile and take him in with open arms,” Sims said about Coker this spring.
2. Dillon Lee
Former defensive end Ed Stinson described the linebacker as “Crazy. In a good way,” but first and foremost, Dillon Lee needs to keep his nose clean.
The junior who can play inside or outside linebacker has played in 21 career games, with 17 tackles, one interception and a fumble return for a touchdown.
However, he was also arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol this spring, and at the end of the 2012 season, he was one of two players sent back from Miami due to violation of team rules before Alabama beat Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship.
3. Arie Kouandjio/Leon Brown
Senior Leon Brown, who started for injured right guard Anthony Steen in the Sugar Bowl, spent most of the spring at that spot, while senior Arie Kouandjio started every game at left guard last season.
“We want to give him a good opportunity at guard and see how he develops,” Nick Saban said about Brown.
However, Dominick Jackson is due to take finals next week at the College of San Mateo in California, and should he meet all of his academic requirements, he will subsequently head to Tuscaloosa.
The 6’7” Jackson was the top-ranked JUCO offensive lineman in the nation, according to 247Sports. He figures to get a first look at right tackle, but both he, senior Austin Shepherd and sophomore reserve Grant Hill can also play guard.
4. Every Defensive Back Not Named Landon Collins
With sophomore Eddie Jackson out for a while following knee surgery, the coaches started the most experienced cornerbacks, Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones, with the first-unit defense on A-Day.
However, true freshman Tony Brown showed that he’s ready to challenge for a starting job, prize prospect Marlon Humphrey will soon arrive on campus, and sophomore Maurice Smith hopes to earn a bigger role.
If Sylve, who only played in eight games last season due to a problematic ankle injury, can stay healthy, he might be the fastest player on the Crimson Tide.
“It’s going to have to be between Bradley Sylve and Amari Cooper,” wide receiver Christion Jones said this spring, and yes, that includes Brown, who competed with the Crimson Tide track team before aggravating a shoulder injury while attempting to clear a hurdle.
“The word on the street is Amari already beat him,” Jones added.
5. Cam Robinson
The true freshman was working with the first unit by the end of spring, and Nick Saban has since been calling him the starting left tackle.
“He did some good things, and he’s done some really good things all spring long, but we have been consistently better on the offensive line when he’s playing,” Saban said at the end of spring. “He’s a very good pass-blocker, but my expectation would be that for a guy that’s a freshman and only been here a couple months, he still has a lot to learn.”
Robinson will still be 18 when training camp opens in August.
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.