Alabama depth map observations, surprises and notes | Panda Anku

The unrecognized holiday came and went on Monday, and the gift arrived in a stack of papers distributed minutes before Nick Saban’s Week 1 press conference.

Depth Map Day was back in physical form after the last two seasons of video conferencing, and the celebrations in the media room were rabid as ever. We gobbled up every name, slashes between names and newbie names.

Since we had a few hours to wind down from this rush and quench the depth map day hangover, we had a few observations to add some context to the original document.

First some raw numbers.

— Four of the five Power 5 transfers were listed as starters or co-starters. Only receiver Tyler Harrell, previously from Louisville, wasn’t on the top line of the depth chart. He was the second-team X-receiver behind Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton. Cornerback Eli Ricks was listed as a co-starter at one of the two cornerback spots, along with Kool-Aid McKinstry.

— There were 10 true freshmen listed in the first, second, or third teams.

— Two of them were top starters. Defensive lineman Jahiem Oatis was a co-starter at nose guard along with senior DJ Dale. And Calera receiver Kobe Prentice was the starting slot receiver via co-backups Christian Leary and Emmanuel Henderson (also a Geneva County freshman).

The other freshmen:

  • Middle LB Jihaad Campbell (Third Team Will)
  • OL Tyler Booker (second-team right-back)
  • Tight end Danny Lewis (second team)
  • Tight end Amari Niblack (second team)
  • WR Kendrick Law (Third Team Z)
  • WR Isaiah Bond (Third Team X)
  • WR Emmanuel Henderson (Co-Third Team H)
  • QB Ty Simpson (third team)

Any depth chart surprises?

It’s hard to say there were any stunners, but a few caught the eye.

Sophomore Ja’Corey Brooks has received his share of preseason praise from Saban, but he was listed as the second-team Z-receiver behind Traeshon Holden. That comes after Holden, a junior, who had a great performance in the second of two scrimmages in August.

“I’ve just seen steady growth,” quarterback Bryce Young said of Holden. “He worked really, really hard. Someone who has worked hard all his time here. It hasn’t been his time for the past few years, but not everyone sees what’s going on throughout the week, but for the last two years he’s been here he’s been working day to day. He’s grown feels like any exercise. And then in the off-season he really took a leadership role and he’s the guy who’s been here the longest and knows all those things.”

Saban was still high on Brooks as he discussed his role with the kickoff return team.

“I like his spirit, I like his energy, I like the way he works every day,” Saban said. “And he had a really good fall camp. Whatever role we have given him – be it on special teams or as a starter at receiver – he has always responded very positively and done a good job.”

Other notables:

  • Kendall Randolph is the first left warden going into his sixth season. He has started 13 games, all in tight ends, and also got game time in tackles.
  • Junior Jahquez Robinson was the only other cornerback listed outside of the four co-starters. The Jacksonville product’s only action in two seasons was a special team duty last year against Mercer. Saban mentioned his name early in camp as someone who impressed.
  • Junior Jamil Burroughs had a lot of off-season chatter at the defensive end but was listed as Tim Smith’s replacement. Linebacker Will Anderson listed Burroughs as a defender Monday, which was a factor in rushing the passer.
  • Just the fact that Oatis is a co-starter with a senior member of Dale’s leadership council is remarkable. “Well, you see, the first thing you have to do to be a good defender in any position you play is you have to be hard to block,” Saban said of Oatis. “So if I said something simple without getting too technical, I’d say he’s difficult to block.”

A few other notes

– There hasn’t really been a quarterback contest since Tua Tagovailoa beat Jalen Hurts for the job in 2018. There were no slashes this year with Jalen Milroe as a solid No. 2 behind Bryce Young and freshman Ty Simpson as the only other grantee passer listed in third.

— It was clear for a while that Jahmyr Gibbs would be the next running back, with Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams as co-nos. 2. Saban said they were confident with five running backs on their team, although four are listed. Trey Sanders was the only name on the third team, while Jamarion Miller is a true freshman who was enrolled in spring training.

– The other highly touted true newcomer RB is now at the receiver as mentioned. Henderson was a five-star player from Hartford, Alabama who spent time with slots receivers.

— A few other freshmen made it onto the depth chart at receiver, with Kendrick Law listed as third Team Z and Isaiah Bond listed as third behind Burton and Harrell as X.

– While Chris Braswell is listed as a replacement for Will Anderson at Jack Linebacker, Anderson hinted that there could be pass rush situations where Braswell would join him and Dallas Turner.

— Kool-Aid McKinstry took on the cherished role of the barge returner. A true freshman, he didn’t return any punts last year. He will be joined by Jermaine Burton and Brian Branch. Neither has previously returned punts, but you have to expect JoJo Earle to account for that equation when he returns from injury sometime in late September or early October.

— Gibbs will be the key kickoff returnee. He took one back with Georgia Tech last season.

Michael Casagrande is a reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande or on Facebook.

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