Nick Saban told CSTV that players from this class could be immediate contributors. â€œEspecially linebackersâ€ like Jerrell Harris.
It is difficult for freshmen to contribute in major college football, but it is not unheard of. Even Alabama saw Rolando McClain play as a freshman this last season. McClain did a superb, if at times inconsistent job in 2007. McClain started in nine of the 13 games. He made 75 tackles, and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
So it does happen.
But what makes things different today than in most classes from years past?
I would say three main things:
1. Alabamaâ€™s lack of depth
You can get into the playing rotation faster because of the attrition and other problems that have plagued the team.
2. The talent level of this class
This class has a superb, higher than average class. Great athletes like cream, rises to the top.
3. Better overall high school talent
In the old days, players (especially at the skill positions) would arrive at college needing massive amount of work in technique and time learning systems. But today, players arrive in high school after years of working within complex offensive and defensive schemes in junior high school. At the major high schools, players have spent additional years working on technique and development. The end result is that players today are much further ahead than they were ten or twenty years ago.
That said, it is difficult to count on young players for major contributions. If you must depend on freshmen then it is a symptom of a problem. Alabamaâ€™s problems are past. But it would be illogical to expect immediate success with inexperienced players fielding a major portion of the 2008 responsibilities.