- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Blake Sims are long gone. For that matter, so are Landon Collins and Xzavier Dickson.
After the NFL draft , both sides of the ball at Alabama were depleted. Now the Crimson Tide need more than just one or two players to emerge, they need a few.
This week we’re looking at four breakout candidates for the Crimson Tide in 2015, two on offense and two on defense.
Tony Brown, CB, Soph.
The skinny: Of Alabama’s two five-star cornerbacks from the Class of 2014, it was Brown who saw the field as a true freshman and not Marlon Humphrey. Brown, the nation’s No. 2 cornerback prospect according to Recruiting Nation, played in 13 games last season with two starts (Florida, Ole Miss) after enrolling early in January. His 10 tackles and one pass breakup weren’t altogether exceptional, but the simple fact that he saw the field as a rookie bodes well for his future. Where he did stand out, however, was on the track where he earned Outdoor Track & Field All-America honors.
High expectations: So, yeah, he’s fast. He reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds this spring. But the Texas native isn’t just a straight-line runner. At 6-foot and 195 pounds, he has good size, too, which will bode well in a league that features physical receivers like Auburn’s Duke Williams, Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell and Texas A&M’s Ricky Seals-Jones. In fact, given Brown’s height advantage over fellow projected starting cornerback Cyrus Jones, don’t be surprised if he is the one defending those very same star receivers when the time comes.
Given the way last season ended for Alabama’s secondary with so many breakdowns against Auburn, Missouri and Ohio State, Brown needs to develop into a reliable starter opposite Jones. Eddie Jackson, who looked like a promising player at corner after playing as a true freshman in 2013, has moved to safety. The same can be said of Maurice Smith, who was a four-star recruit out of Texas in 2013. If Brown can hold down the No. 2 cornerback spot, it will free up Alabama’s options in the secondary, putting less pressure on Humphrey after his redshirt season.
Previous breakout candidates:
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8dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
8dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough