TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ University of Alabama fans who are trying to figure out which members of the signing Class of 2014 may end up redshirting this season can scratch cornerback Tony Brown off the list.

Nick Saban’s already said that the early enrollee is going to contribute this season.

“Tony’s done really, really well,” said Saban, who also doubles as Brown’s position coach. “I think every freshman sort of learns that they have a lot to learn about how to play. You know in some cases they have to learn how to play with the other people that they play with, to communicate, make adjustments, depend on other people, you know, help them, so they can do the right things. You play a team defense in which everybody’s got to do their job.”

While all indications are that juniors Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve, who are both converted wide receivers, will start at cornerback when Alabama opens the regular season next week against West Virginia in Atlanta, Brown and fellow true freshman Marlon Humphrey have been right behind them in practice.

Part of that, though, has been due to setbacks with other players. Sophomore Eddie Jackson is four months off knee surgery and when safety Geno Smith was recently sidelined with a sprained knee sophomore Maurice Smith slid over to take his spot in drills at “star” – the extra defensive back in nickel formation when Alabama pulls the strongside linebacker.

“I think he can be a good special teams player as well as a guy who can contribute for us at corner, but he’s still a guy who needs to progress, not get frustrated by what he doesn’t know, and be able to focus on – you know – knowledge and confidence,” Saban added about Brown. “It’s hard to be confident if you don’t have knowledge, an understanding of what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it.

“It always scares me when a guy doesn’t know what to do but he’s really confident. I’m saying that’s like not very smart, I don’t think. But it takes a while for these guys to get it. Then they start playing fast. But Tony Brown is going to be a really good player and so is Marlon.”

The difference in their progression may have been best articulated by Sylve:

“Tony Brown is a real competitor,” he said earlier this week. “He comes to work every day hard.”

On Humphrey: “Marlon, he’s a real good competitor. He comes to practice every day. He’s trying to get it, and I feel like he can contribute to the team.”

Saban will release the Crimson Tide’s initial depth chart on Monday. Last season Alabama used 35 first- or second-year players including 14 true freshmen, which was among the most in the nation. Considering the team’s high turnover rate it might approach those numbers again this fall.

Left tackle Cam Robinson is on target to be the first non-special teams true freshman to start a Crimson Tide season opener since Julio Jones in 2008. His backup is Ross Pierschbacher, while JK Scott is slated to be the punter.

Saban hasn’t been afraid to play a true freshman at cornerback before including Kareem Jackson (2007), Dre Kirkpatrick (2009), and Dee Milliner (2010), who all went on to be first-round draft picks.

“Tony’s definitely improved,” sophomore wide receiver Chris Black said. “You can’t really tell he’s a freshman. You can’t tell he just stepped on campus. Marlon as well. He’s got really great speed. Both of those guys can run.”