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Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Crimson Countdown: Dakota Ball

By Alex Scarborough

During the summer, TideNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Alabama roster -- excluding the Tide's 2013 recruiting class -- in our Crimson Countdown series. Starting with No. 1 Dee Hart, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Brandon Ivory.

No. 94 Dakota Ball
Redshirt freshman defensive lineman

Expectations for 2013: As often happens with rookie defensive linemen, Ball was allowed to work in the weight room and learn the scheme from afar in 2012. The Georgia native made the best of his time, too, trimming a whopping 25 pounds off his frame in an effort to become more athletic in a league that's trending toward more quick-twitch, agile defenders to keep up with the rising number of mobile quarterbacks. With a redshirt season now behind him, Ball is in a good position to come off the bench as a reserve defensive end.

Best-case scenario: We'll know right away if Ball is in line to see the field in a meaningful way in 2013. With early games against uptempo offenses such as Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, his speed and quickness on the line will be in high demand. While it's unlikely he unseats either Jeoffrey Pagan, Ed Stinson or Brandon Ivory and starts, Ball could create a niche role for himself as someone who can come on in third down and passing situations and pressure the quarterback like Nick Gentry did in 2011.

Worst-case scenario: While Ball did rotate in with the Crimson Team defense at A-Day, don't read too far into his placement among the first-team defensive line. Spring game rosters can be tricky to decipher and are often a result of balancing the numbers on each side. Ball has promise, but it might take some time for the 6-foot-2, 270-pound prospect to become accustomed to the physical demands of playing in the SEC. Simply breaking into the rotation this season should be viewed as a positive.

Future impact: What starts out as a niche role for Ball could blossom into a starting job in the seasons to come as veterans such as Stinson, Ivory and Pagan leave the program over the next two years. He'll have competition, though, as true freshmen Darius Paige and Dee Liner develop and push for reps.