5 Crimson Tide Players Fans Should Re-Familiarize Themselves With
The Alabama Crimson Tide lost eight offensive starters and return eight defensive starters for the 2021 college football season. Under Nick Saban's now 14-year tenure, the slogan has long been 'reload, not rebuild' in Tuscaloosa. This season appears to be no different.
A Day is well in the rear view, and summer workouts and training camp will be upon us before fans can say Roll Tide, and that's why it's important for the Tide faithful to know who will be ready to step up in place of the stars that have moved on to the NFL.
Fans, naturally, are already familiar with many of the names that will be taking on the most major of roles -- Bryce Young at quarterback, Brian Robinson at running back, John Metchie at wide receiver, Josh Jobe at cornerback -- But there are a handful of players who showed in rotation last year or on A Day that they too will carve out a role in the 2021 Crimson Tide roster.
Here are five players that every Crimson Tide fan should be sure to know before training camp.
Wide receiver Traeshon Holden played in five games last year, but has yet to record a reception in his Crimson Tide career. The former 4-star prospect enters his sophomore season with an opportunity to change that as the third wide receiver option for a reloaded offensive attack.
Though a lot of attention was justifiably given to freshman wideout Agiye Hall on A Day, Holden shined just as bright, catching nine of 14 targets for 89 yards. He was clearly Bryce Young's favorite target without John Metchie on the field. He wasn't totally outshined by Hall in the spectacular catching department either, as he had a one-handed touchdown inexplicably called incomplete.
Ultimately, what sets Holden apart from the freshmen class and returning wideouts is his obvious chemistry with the starting quarterback. Think back to Tua Tagovailoa entering the national championship game against Georgia and Devonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy seeing more reps in the game as a result.
Timing and comradery are everything between a quarterback and his weapons, and if Young already has a linked mind with Holden, it'll be difficult for anyone to take his spot in the receiving rotations.
With all the talk surrounding the number one recruit in the 2021 class for the Crimson Tide, Ga'Quincey McKinstry, there's no denying junior cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis has yet to relinquish his role as the starting cornerback opposite Josh Jobe.
Jobe is already getting first-round attention in next year's NFL Draft, which means JAD will get plenty of targets in his direction next season. As such, fans should not only get used to hearing his name, but feel confident in his abilities to handle the added stress of playing opposite of a shutdown corner.
Armour-Davis was the man defending Traeshon Holden for most of A Day, which paints a picture of what is to come in 2021 for opposing receivers: they'll have to fight for every inch of separation and make a reception with a 6'1" cornerback draped all over them.
Speaking of fighting for every inch, tight end Cameron Latu will have to do the same when it comes to playing time. The 6'5"-250lb junior had a fantastic Spring by all accounts and likely will force Bill O'Brien's hand in calling formations with twin tight end sets.
It may seem difficult for Latu to eat into Jahleel Billingsley's targets in 2021, but he will find opportunities. After all, he did catch Bryce Young's lone touchdown pass on A Day.
Latu displayed impressive athleticism, soft hands and reliable blocking, all traits needed to fend off senior Major Tennison. Conversely, as impressive as Billingsly was late in 2020, he still has just 20 receptions and three touchdowns. The true bulk of the position's playing time is still anyone's to take, and Latu has stamped his name as one to watch in the rotation.
Exit Christian Barmore, enter Timothy Smith. Much like the New England Patriot's 2nd-round pick, Smith slipped into the rotation late in his freshman season and began to flash massive potential.
Smith is versatile across the line and is explosive at the snap, giving him ample opportunities to create havoc in opposing backfields. As a result, it became harder and harder for Pete Golding and his defensive staff to keep him off the field last year, and that trend is likely to continue in 2021.
All told, the defensive line group is stacked at least six men deep, including Smith. Phidarian Mathis, LaBryan Ray and DJ Dale will likely be the starters with Byron Young, Justin Eboigbe and Smith being the second rotation. Opposing offensive lines will have their hands full in every outing with this defensive line, and while all six are supremely talented, Smith may be the one evoking the most noise and attention from fans before the season is done, just as Barmore did during his career.
Keilan Robinson may be under the radar for a portion of the Crimson Tide fanbase, seeing as he was the only player for Alabama who opted out of the 2020 season. Robinson took advantage of his extra time working on his physique and athleticism and looks to bring a dose of explosion to the 2021 offense.
Robinson was listed as a running back / wide receiver on the A Day roster, but his role wasn't clearly defined in the scrimmage. Regardless, he brings tremendous speed to the offensive attack and his versatility will prove useful as reps are divided amongst the skill players. That plays in his favor considering how how much depth Alabama possesses at both positions. He'll be an option in the return game too.
Many skill players will get opportunities, especially early in the season as players tend to break away into star roles. Don't be surprised if Robinson is one of the players that uses his unique skillset to keep himself on the field.
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