Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Former 28-year-old MLB player among nine football early enrollees looking to make impact

Nine of the players in The University of Alabama football team’s top-ranked recruiting class – seven on scholarship – enrolled early, taking an extra semester to learn the playbook and gel with their new teammates.

Two of the recruits, running back Derrick Henry and tight end O.J. Howard were some of the highest ranked talents at their respective positions in the 2013 class.

Henry rushed for 4,261 yards his senior season, scoring 55 touchdowns. Howard comes in at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 235 pounds, and was a consistent receiving threat for Autauga Academy out of Prattville, Ala.

J.C. Shurburtt, the national recruiting director for 247Sports, said he feels Henry and Howard are among the early enrollees with the best opportunity to make an impact their freshman season.

“Those guys are such great athletes, and so dynamic, can create such a mismatch in certain situations,” Shurburtt said. “And them coming in early, learning the offense, and getting acclimated to the college game is going to give them a leg up.”

Shurburtt said he felt the depth at the running back position wouldn’t impede Henry’s chances of seeing the field early, either.

Henry’s former head coach at Yulee High School, Bobby Ramsay, shared Shurburtt’s sentiments on Henry’s potential, saying he felt Henry has been physically ready for the college game for a few years, and has all the skill sets he needs to be successful at Alabama.

Ramsay said he felt the coaching staff would take time to make sure Henry learns the more technical aspects of his position, but said Henry’s work ethic will eventually result in playing time.

“He certainly has the intangibles as far as off-the-field stuff,” Ramsay said. “The work ethic, the desire to improve, the ability to come in and be in and be a part of the program that they have there and contribute to it and have a positive impact on it.”

Offensive linemen Leon Brown and Brandon Hill will also have an opportunity to step in early come from the junior college ranks. Both players add some depth at the offensive line position, which saw Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker all leave for the NFL Draft.

Both Hill and Brown come in at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, although Shurburtt said Brown appears to have the early edge on Hill, who came to Alabama weighing 390 pounds.

Hill said he’s already lost 16 pounds since first arriving on campus, though, and would like to be down to his goal target of 350 pounds before the start of the season.

“I’m still trying to get as fit as I can,” Hill said. “The clothes I have that were tight are getting loose on me now.”

Alabama also brought in three quarterback recruits in this year’s signing class: Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod, who are on scholarship, and Luke Del Rio, who walked on. Although none of the players will legitimately compete with senior quarterback AJ McCarron for the starting position, they add some depth to the quarterback position.

“I think it’s critical that some player that we have either in the organization or that we just recruited can develop into a potential starter for when AJ graduates,” head coach Nick Saban said. “AJ has done a great job here for us, he provides good leadership, and I’m sure he’ll help with the development of these guys.”

Saban said seniority will have no bearing in his decision of who start as quarterback after McCarron graduates.

“You probably look at it like, ‘Well, this guy’s been here the longest, so he gets the most chance,’” Saban said. “If he’s been here the longest, he’s already had the most chances. If he hasn’t taken advantage of those opportunities, then somebody else has a turn at getting those chances.”

Wide receiver Raheem Falkins and athlete Jai Miller round out the remainder of the early enrollees for Alabama this spring. Miller is a 28-year-old former Major League Baseball player who spent time playing for the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics.

Falkins is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 195 pounds, and should provide a big receiving threat for the Tide in the future, although he has a host of other talented wide receivers to compete with at Alabama.

Shurburtt said with the amount of talent already at the wide receiver position for Alabama, it’s more than likely Falkins will redshirt his freshman season. Even so, Shurburtt said the players’ chance to enroll early will provide huge dividends in the future, not just on the field, but off it as well.

“It’s huge,” Shurburtt said. “It kind of gives you an advantage, mentally. Kind of makes you grow up a little bit quicker. And as we all know that’s the key to college: You’ve got to grow up.”

More to Discover