5 key Alabama players that didn't play in last year's playoff
A year ago, Alabama was getting ready to face the Big Ten champions in the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff.
The Crimson Tide finds itself in the same situation this season, but it’s a new year. While some of the same key players from last year’s loss to Ohio State are back, there are new players at Bama looking to make sure the Tide doesn’t suffer the same kind of loss it did last Jan. 1.
Here’s a look at five Alabama players who didn’t play in last year’s College Football Playoff who could make a big difference for the Tide.
1. Quarterback Jake Coker
Blake Sims beat Coker for the starting quarterback job in the preseason last year and had a magnificent season leading Alabama to the SEC title and into the playoff. But Ohio State was able to get pressure on Sims, sacking him three times and forcing three interceptions. The Tide’s chances of beating Michigan State are much greater if Coker can simply eliminate those turnovers. He’s thrown only eight interceptions all season and Alabama doesn’t need a star turn from its quarterback. It needs him to manage the game and let Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry carry the load.
2. Defensive Back Marlon Humphrey
Humphrey redshirted last season as a true freshman, but this year he jumped right into the mix for the Alabama defense and has gotten better and better as the season has gone on. He enters the game seventh on the team with 40 tackles and also has three interceptions, including one at the end of the third quarter of the SEC Championship Game that put Florida away for good.
3. Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley
Perhaps the most anticipated new addition to the Alabama roster, Ridley needed a few weeks to fully acclimate himself to the college game. But the true freshman wideout has become the biggest threat in the Crimson Tide’s passing game. He leads Alabama with 75 receptions, 21 more than fellow wideout ArDarius Stewart. Ridley has compiled 893 receiving yards with five touchdowns. He was more of a possession guy early on, but he’s developed into a deep threat. If the Tide are going to be able to stretch the field it likely will be because of Ridley.
4. Running Back Kenyan Drake
Even though Drake came back from a knee injury, 2015 wound up being the Derrick Henry show on offense with Drake fading into the background. Still, Drake racked up nearly 600 yards of total offense as a threat to both run with the ball or catch passes out of the backfield. Odd are Drake won’t end up being the star of the game, but if Alabama figures out ways to use him either to get Henry some rest here and there or to keep Michigan State off balance with his speed and receiving ability, it could make a big difference. Alabama only produced 170 yards on the ground against Ohio State last year.
5. Defensive Back Minkah Fitzpatrick
Another true freshman who has made an impact this season, Fitzpatrick’s season has gone a different route than Ridley and Humphrey. Early on it was the New Jersey native who was the Tide’s breakout player, making huge plays in September and October, including a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns and a blocked punt for a score. He’s been dealing with a leg injury late in the season and hasn’t been as explosive, but there’s a good chance that opportunity to rest and heal up in recent weeks has done him some good. And in reality, the Tide doesn’t necessarily need Fitzpatrick to make highlight-reel plays, they need him to play solid in coverage and limit the Spartans’ ability to get yards in chunks.