The list begins with someone who has not suited up for an official practice on campus, yet enters 2014 with high expectations at a major position of need. Humphrey, a five-star recruit and the No. 9 overall player in the Class of 2014, should come in and help bolster a cornerback unit that was the Crimson Tide's weakness a season ago. Humphrey's value increased further when projected starter Eddie Jackson went down with a torn ACL this spring (he is expected back this fall). Humphrey joins fellow five-star CB Tony Brown in this year's recruiting class. Brown will enter the fall ahead of Humphrey because he enrolled this past spring.
Da'Shawn Hand, the nation's No. 1 player in the 2014 class, will be a major part of Alabama's defensive effort in coming years. How much will he be asked to help in 2014? That's the key question. His skill set is immense, and if he were at any other school anywhere, Hand would be a shoo-in Day 1 starter. But he'll step into practice with a host of proven defensive lineman with bright futures of their own who are expected to be more game ready come August. Still, Hand should see plenty of significant snaps and has the potential to break through and become an important part of what many expect to be the best defensive front in the nation.
For now, Adam Griffith's name is only associated with a play that every Alabama fan would like to forget - his missed 57-yard field goal attempt that would eventually lead to a smarting 34-28 loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. So can Griffith establish positive memories as a full-time starter in 2014? First, he'll have to win the job, which isn't a guarantee. He struggled in the A-Day Game and UA is bringing on walk-on kickers this fall to compete. From there he'll need to show consistency on what could be a very short leash. Still, nothing illustrates the importance of special teams more than that Iron Bowl loss as Alabama's missed field goals cost it the win and a likely shot at the national championship.
Quarterback is the No. 1 position of value as Alabama looks to replace AJ McCarron, but Sims' ranking here indicates the panel's feeling that Jacob Coker will be the starter for UA this fall. Still, Sims is a top 40 player because Coker is somewhat of an unknown commodity. Like Coker, Sims lacks game experience and doesn't have the same skill set as Coker. But if Coker falters, Sims' experience in the program could prove vital. Even if he never sees significant snaps, having a senior player with the respect of his teammates like Sims behind a starter brings plenty of value.
It was a wildly inconsistent year for Alabama at cornerback. Cyrus Jones was no different. Mixing great plays with blown assignments, Jones saw many significant snaps in a unit that was Alabama's weakest link on defense in 2013. The experience should pay off as UA searches for answers this preseason. With Eddie Jackson sidelined, will Jones take a starting job? Will it be Bradley Sylve? Perhaps a freshman like Tony Brown or Marlon Humphrey? Jones has the opportunity to be a key cog in UA's effort if he can find consistency.