Alabama Crimson Tide: Eddie Williams

From the moment Nick Saban stepped on campus, the recruiting game changed at the University of Alabama. Unburdened by the previous regime's bout with NCAA sanctions, Saban and the coaching staff set to the recruiting trail and began winning battles throughout the Southeast.

Alabama, previously on the outside looking in at the top 10 classes in the country, soon found itself owning the class rankings. From 2008 on, UA was the only school in the country to finish in the top three of the ESPN class rankings every year. If its No. 2 ranking holds during the next week and a half, that streak will be pushed to six straight years.

In that vein, TideNation set out to rank Saban's top recruiting classes since his arrival at Alabama in 2007. Based on class rankings and on-field production, here's how it looks:

The Uncommitteds: Antonio Conner 

January, 29, 2013
Editor's note: Leading up to signing day, TideNation will examine the remaining uncommitted prospects still considering the University of Alabama. Today, we look at ESPN 150 safety Antonio Conner.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Last year, the Crimson Tide pulled five-star safety Landon Collins out of Louisiana, away from the Bayou Bengals. This year, they’re trying to do the same thing in Mississippi, attempting to take ESPN 150 safety Antonio Conner away from Ole Miss.

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Forecasting the Tide: Safety 

January, 3, 2013
Editor’s note: Every Tuesday and Thursday between now and national signing day, TideNation will review each position and look at who figures to start, who could rise up the depth chart and who might be on the way. Today we’ll look at the safeties.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's hard to imagine that Robert Lester came to Alabama in the same recruiting class as his high school teammate Julio Jones. Lester, now a fifth-year senior is about to compete in his final collegiate game while Jones is set to play in the Pro Bowl in his second season with the Atlanta Falcons.

The two friends took the same track but at vastly different speeds.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's true freshmen have wasted no time getting on the field and contributing in 2012. All told, a dozen first-year players have seen action through five games.

Given the news of starting wide receiver DeAndrew White's season-ending knee injury, coupled with the loss of backup running back Dee Hart to the same fate, prepare to hear more from the teenagers on campus.

Amari Cooper had already begun to take on more of a role at receiver, as have T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake at running back. The losses of White and Hart make their rise on the depth chart official.

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Practice report: Aug. 22 

August, 22, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Thomas-Drew Practice Fields got a little more crowded on Wednesday afternoon as the Crimson Tide welcomed a number of walk-ons to the field for the first time this summer.

It is the first week of school at the University of Alabama and the first opportunity for coach Nick Saban and staff to expand the roster.

Here are some notes and observations from the media viewing period of practice:

  • Amari Cooper spent a second straight day in a black no-contact jersey on the training bike. The standout true freshman wore a protective boot on his left foot.
  • Wide reciever Kenny Bell continues to work with the third group during drills. The junior has been dealing with some minor "nagging" injuries, according to Saban. He wore a sleeve on his right knee. Fellow wideout DeAndrew White wore a sleeve on his left knee but did not appear to be slowed.

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Practice report: Aug. 15 

August, 15, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Despite only partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures, the University of Alabama held practice Wednesday morning inside the indoor facility.

No players were in black no-contact jerseys, other than the quarterbacks which is standard operating procedure for Alabama.

Here are some notes and observations from the media viewing period.
Landon Collins
Davide De PasLandon Collins is already passing the eye test.

  • Jalston Folwer went back and forth between running back and H-Back during practice. He started with the running backs, switched to H-Back for a period and then flipped back to running back again. The coaching staff is trying to keep him in tune with both positions as they try to make plans to have him on the field more in both roles.
  • Eddie Williams continues to work with the defensive backs. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound athlete is the tallest of the defense backs. He played safety in high school and appears to be comfortable with the return to a natural position.

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Practice report: Aug. 13 

August, 13, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama returned to practice on Monday after a scheduled off day on Sunday. It was the first day off since the start of fall camp.

The Crimson Tide practiced in good conditions: 75 degrees with partly cloudy skies.

Here are a few notes and observations from the media viewing period of practice:

  • Freshman linebacker Denzel Devall moved from inside linebackers to the outside. The 6-foot-2, 243-pounder has worked strictly with inside linebackers prior to today's practice.
  • Eddie Williams continues to work with the safetites. After news of Jarrick Williams' season-ending injury, don't expect the true freshman to make the move back to receiver.

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As kickoff inches closer and the roster comes into full view, we here at TideNation will reach out to our national group of scouts for their take on some of the issues facing the University of Alabama. Today we spoke with National Recruiting Director and College Football Analyst Tom Luginbill.

[+] EnlargeEddie Williams
ESPNAlabama freshman safety Eddie Williams is finally settling in on one position.
Alex Scarborough: Eddie Williams has great raw skills at 6-foot-3, 204 pounds. Given his move from wide receiver to safety, what are some positives and negatives to him playing on the defensive side of the ball?

Tom Luginbill: I don't see negatives. If there was a negative, it would be that he played so many positions in high school that he hasn't settled in and truly learned the nuances of one individual position. That's where the learning curve comes. This will be the first time he's settled in playing a position and doing it full time, not of playing quarterback on offense and then splitting time on defense or splitting time at receiver. That, on its own accord, is going to rapidly accelerate his development.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama secondary looked a lot different only a few days ago.

Coach Nick Saban announced on Saturday afternoon that cornerback Jarrick Williams will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The news comes on the heels of fellow cornerback Travell Dixon deciding to leave the program on Friday for family and personal reasons.

"Jarrick was a core special teams player for us," Saban said following Saturday's scrimmage. "[He was] doing as good a job because he has a better understanding now of getting better and being able to execute in the secondary.

"[He] was probably going to be a role player and a solid backup there for us."

While the core of the secondary remains intact, the loss of two key reserves hurts a unit already undergoing a serious facelift this offseason. Three-quarters of the secondary must be replaced from a year ago, and only a handful of experienced players are in position to take the reins.

"We're going to have some young guys in the secondary who are going to have to be backup players and they're probably going to have to have some roles," Saban explained.

(Read full post)

Practice report: Aug. 11 

August, 11, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama headed to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the second time during preseason camp on Saturday. The Crimson Tide wore full pads under partly cloudy skies for the first official scrimmage since April.

[+] EnlargeCyrus Jones
Davide De Pas for ESPN.comWR Cyrus Jones is making a nice transition from high school to college.
As reported earlier in the week, true freshman receiver Chris Black is out for 3-4 months with a shoulder injury that will require surgery. He was not at practice.

Here are some notes and observations from the media viewing period:

  • With Black out, it looks like Cyrus Jones is making a move. The No. 4 athlete in the ESPN 150 last season has seemed more comfortable at receiver with each passing day. He's flashed good hands and is a natural at catching the ball and getting up field in a hurry.
  • Jones was with the fourth grouping of receivers on Saturday. Kevin Norwood and DeAndrew White went first, followed by Kenny Bell and Amari Cooper, then Christion Jones and Marvin Shinn.

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Practice report: Aug. 10 

August, 10, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama practiced with a sense of enthusiasm or a double-dip on Friday . The Crimson Tide went to work in full pads in the morning and switched to shells for a night workout.

As reported yesterday, freshman receiver Chris Black is out for 3-4 months with a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

Here are some notes and observations from both the morning and night media viewing periods.

  • Eddie Williams changed positions for the first time this fall. The No. 2 athlete in the ESPN 150 last year switched from receiver to defensive back on Friday. It's a curious move less than 24 hours after news of Black's injury. Williams is likely to play at safety in the secondary. With good size, speed and overall athleticism, he fits the position well. Williams stayed with the defensive backs for the second practice at night. Looks like the experiment might continue for a while.
  • News of junior college transfer Travell Dixon decision to leave the program was unexpected, but judging by past practices it shouldn't have been. The 6-foot-1 cornerback had seemingly lost ground on players like Dee Milliner, Deion Belue and Jon Fulton. And with so many talented freshman pushing for a look, it would have been difficult for Dixon to find a place to play.

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Alabama could be without one of its top young receivers for the 2012 season, as true freshman Chris Black will miss three to four months after injuring his shoulder during practice on Sunday.

Nick Saban said Black will need surgery to repair his shoulder.

Black, who was part of a highly-touted receiver class for the Crimson Tide, enrolled at Alabama in January. By all accounts, he had a pretty solid spring and caught three passes for 61 yards and a 44-yard touchdown in Alabama's spring game.

The former Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast standout was the No. 2-rated wide receiver coming out of high school and had the potential to be a deep-play threat in Alabama's offense.

"He wants to play so bad he can't see straight," Saban told reporters Thursday. "This is one of the unfortunate things. We feel bad for him, but everybody here is going to be very, very supportive, and he's going to be an excellent player for us in the future."

The good news for Alabama is there is good depth at receiver. Juniors Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell are looking to make names for themselves this season, while the team has been impressed by youngsters Amari Cooper, who enrolled early, Eddie Williams and Cyrus Jones. Sophomores DeAndrew White and Christion Jones also have big-play potential.

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Practice report: Aug. 7 

August, 7, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Fall practice took another step forward on Tuesday as the Crimson Tide put on full pads for the first time.

A thunderstorm moved the practice to the indoor facility on the University of Alabama campus.

Here are some notes and observations from the media viewing period:

  • For the third straight day, no players other than quarterbacks started the practice in black no-contact jerseys. Eddie Lacy and Arie Kouandjio, who wore the black shirts on Sunday, were not limited. Lacy and Kouandjio are both recovering from offseason surgery.
  • Lacy is cutting well and appears to be near full speed. He went through cone drills and looked comfortable doing so.
  • [+] EnlargeAdrian Hubbard
    John Korduner/Icon SMIRunning back Eddie Lacy (42) appears to be close to full strength.
  • T.J. Yeldon keeps improving. The true freshman running back showed off quick feet and power in drills today. Defenses will have their hands full with Lacy, Yeldon and Jalston Fowler running downhill. All three have good size and hit the hole with power.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Kevin Norwood leaped over the Honey Badger on Jan. 9 and made it known to the world how far he planned to go. The picture-perfect catch over LSU's Tyrann Mathieu was a seminal moment in Alabama's win at the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans, and could prove to be just as dramatic a moment in the junior receiver's career.

"As you saw in the championship game, he could be one of those guys that can be a great receiver at Alabama," said cornerback Dee Milliner of his teammate. "He's been working this summer and coming now to the fall camp, he's working to become one of those guys that stands out at wide receiver."

[+] EnlargeKevin Norwood
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireKevin Norwood is working to earn a starting spot for the Crimson Tide.
Milliner said Norwood is easy to overlook at first, but like his catch over Mathieu, eventually you'll get the picture.

"He has great hands," Milliner said of Norwood. "You'll probably underestimate him when you line up in front of him, but when you get going he's got great routes and when the ball comes he can go up and get it or go down and get it."

Norwood said he has spent the offseason getting stronger and improving his route running as he prepares to battle for the starting job at wide receiver. Last season, he was buried on depth chart by seniors Marquis Maze, Brandon Gibson and Brad Smelley. This time around, those players are gone and it's Norwood's time to develop into a leader on offense.

"Me and Kenny [Bell] have been looking forward to this," Norwood said. "We’ve waited, basically, three or four seasons now to be leaders."

But, according to Norwood, who said he's in the mix in the return game as well, don't expect the job to be handed to both veteran receivers on a silver platter. The competition is just now beginning to ramp up as Alabama enters its first full week of practice.

"It's a battle," Norwood said. "We're basically getting ready to put the pads on tomorrow so we can go out and play up to Coach [Nick] Saban's speed."

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Tide camp: 5 new faces to watch 

August, 2, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama will hold its first practice of fall camp on Friday morning, and there will be plenty of new faces in attendance. Of the 26 players in the Crimson Tide’s 2012 recruiting class, 18 will be seeing their first action in camp. Here are five names to keep an eye on as it gets closer to the first game.

[+] EnlargeLandon Collins
Brady Fontenot for ESPN The MagazineFreshman Landon Collins could make an immediate impact in the Alabama secondary.
1. Landon Collins (DB): There are not many players who can come in as a true freshman and play for Alabama’s defense. Collins might be one of those. Physically, he’s ready. He has the speed to make a quick transition to the college game, and he has football instincts beyond his age. The only question is where he fits into the rotation in the secondary. Long term, I think he takes over for Mark Barron as the hard-hitting safety. But this year he will have to compete with the likes of Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Robert Lester and Vinnie Sunseri for playing time. He might start out playing as a nickel back, but there’s a chance he takes over one of the safety spots by the end of the year.

2. Eddie Williams (WR): Similar to Collins, Williams is a physical gifted athlete. He could play just about anywhere on the field, but he’s projected to play wide receiver, a position he’s not very familiar with. In high school, he played primarily at quarterback and safety. Still, he’s 6-foot-4, and he has the capability to give Alabama that big target on the outside that it’s lacked since Julio Jones left for the NFL. Everybody’s been talking about Amari Cooper and the early impact he will make as a freshman, but if Williams gets acclimated to the offense quickly enough, he could add yet another weapon to AJ McCarron’s arsenal.

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Scout's Take: Atlanta Opening Regional
National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to discuss top performers from the Nike's The Opening regional camp in Atlanta.