- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For the eight enrollees at the University of Alabama, Friday marked their first practice wearing a Crimson Tide uniform. It’s a group with high expectations and includes a number of players who could make early contributions for UA this season.
The group may be highlighted by running back T.J. Yeldon, a true freshman from Daphne High School who has the opportunity to get some serious reps with Eddie Lacy expected to miss the entire spring due to injury.
“What we would like for him to do is focus on what he needs to do to be a complete player at his position, so that he has a chance to contribute, understand, develop confidence in the fundamentals that he needs to play his position with,” UA head coach Nick Saban said.
Saban spent time working hands on with newcomers Deion Belue and Travell Dixon. Both players came over from the junior college ranks and could see early playing time in what’s expected to be a revamped secondary.
On the first day of practice, Saban was especially impressed with Belue, a native of Alabama who originally signed with the Tide out of high school.
“I think Deion Belue has really done really well,” Saban said. “He had a good today. He learns football easily, so he’s one guy, that as a junior college guy, is a little more mature, but I’ve been encouraged by some of the other younger guys.”
One name who didn’t have all of the hype coming out of high school was Dillon Lee. However, fellow UA linebacker Nico Johnson said that Lee has caught on quickly to the defense and looked good at practice.
“He’s doing alright,” Johnson said. “Each year, when C.J. (Mosley) came in, C.J. caught on to it fast. When Trey (DePriest) came in, he caught on it faster than C.J. With Dillon (Lee), he’s catching on to it faster than any of them. It’s going to be an exciting.”
With Brad Smelley’s departure from the team, Alabama is looking for another option at tight end to compliment Michael Williams. It could come from an unlikely source, former defensive lineman Brandon Lewis.
Lewis was close to 300 pounds when he arrived in Tuscaloosa from junior college. He made the move to tight end right before last season and has worked hard to shed weight. He’s now close to 265 pounds as spring practice begins.
“Once you get the weight off, it’s about knowing how to move, and that’s what he’s trying to learn how to do,” Williams said. “He’s trying to get his blocking down, and his receiving is already up there more than we thought.”
Senior offensive lineman Chance Warmack limited in Friday’s practice but was still able to compete. According to Saban, Warmack suffered a quad strain from the offseason conditioning program.
Saban believes he will be back healthy and ready to go after spring break.
2dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough