Who Will Be Tide Football Stars?

O.J. Howard

With three national championships in the past five years, the Alabama football team has had more than its share of college football stars. Even though the bestcollege football coach of his time, Nick Saban, grabs much of the spotlight, there has been plenty of attention to go around.



Alabama in recent years has had the likes of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Butkus Award winners C.J. Mosley and Rolando McClain, wide receiver Julio Jones, Doak Walker winner Trent Richardson, defensive line star Terrence Cody, over-achieving safety Vinnie Sunseri, and Heisman Trophy runner-up A.J. McCarron. Those are names familiar to all who follow college football, not just the Crimson Tide.

Alabama even had a household name in the offensive line as Barrett Jones won the Rimington Award as the nation's best center, the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman, and the Campbell Trophy as America's top college football student-athlete.

Primary reasons for this celebrity status in Bama players have been the Crimson Tide's outstanding recruiting, that brings the stars to Alabama, and the records of the teams they have played on, notably the three national championships.

That recruiting pattern has continued year after year and no one expects Alabama in 2014 to be short in outstanding players and the Crimson Tide will once again be among the favorites for the national championship, even after the 11-2 "slump" of 2013.

But who are the stars?

Ordinarily, one thinks "quarterback." Unless he's keeping it to himself, not even Nick Saban knows for sure who will be running the Tide offense in the fall. It is safe to say, however, that whoever wins the job will have instant celebrity status. Still, as of today, there is no Alabama star quarterback.

Who might it be? Last year's back-up, Blake Sims, doesn't seem to have star power right now. lncoming freshman David Cornwell has an all-star personality and he may be a star of the future, but for now he's got a bum leg and it's not known how long it will take him to get into the mix. Many believe Jacob Coker, who is transferring from Florida State, will be the quarterback in 2014 and also that he will be a star for the Tide.

In recent years, Bama has had star power at tailback. Ingram, Richardson, Eddie Lacy (the NFL Rookie of the Year last season). T.J. Yeldon has been poised to become that next Tide icon, and he may be. Some have already put the "Heisman candidate" moniker on the upcoming junior. But before he begins collecting accolades, not to mention hardware, Yeldon first must win the job. Soph Derrick Henry was Alabama's lone offensive star in the Tide's last outing, the Sugar Bowl, and he may come closer to fan adoration than any other Bama runner.

There is a star at wide receiver. Put it down that upcoming junior Amari Cooper will be on one of the covers of the 2014 Alabama football media guide. We say "one of" because Alabama has had so many stars that in recent years the media guide has been printed with four different covers so there would be the opportunity to honor all the football personalities.

Although there are three starters returning in the offensive line, no one is getting an evaluation of the value of autographs by tackle Austin Shepherd, guard Arie Kouandjio, or center Ryan Kelly. Those are hardly the star positions.

Other than Cooper, it is possible the most likely offensive star for Alabama in 2014 is a man who is listed as a back-up. O.J. Howard had some big moments last year as a true freshman at tight end, and the way Alabama loses a lot of tight end and H-back types, it is possible that Howard could emerge as the star even as he begins the season behind tight end Brian Vogler and/or H-back Jalston Fowler.

At a school like Alabama, where Saban and Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart have had extraordinary success, a defender can reach star level. Oddly, two of the biggest stars in recent years have been literally among the biggest, nose tackles Terrence Cody and Jesse Williams.

Pass-rushing specialists have been in short supply in recent years. A few seasons back a Courtney Upshaw, Marcell Dareus, or Dont'a Hightower would be among the stars. More recently the defensive successes have been in the secondary – Dee Milliner, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Javier Arenas (who was also an oustanding kick returner).

The 2014 Bama has two young men on the defensive line who are recognized as budding superstars, sophs A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen.

Trey DePriest is the most experienced returning linebacker and he'll be at the featured spot, in the middle of the defense, but the star-watchers are waiting to see more of soph Reuben Foster.

The Tide secondary is being rebuilt (again), and it's hard to spot the likely celebrity defensive backs. Landon Collins has the most experience and the most success, but he was an understudy last year to HaHa Clinton-Dix, who benefited both from his talent and his name in earning recognition.

As for a kick return star, Christion Jones has been starring in that position for a couple of years. And Tide fans likely look forward to incoming freshmen football and track stars Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey in the roles.

True, football is a team sport. Alabama's best teams, though, have had outstanding individuals. Stars, in fact.

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