O.J. Howard is Alabama Crimson Tide’s Most Important Freshman

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama freshman O.J. Howard is the prototype for the new breed of big, fast, athletic specimens at tight end and will have the biggest impact of any freshman for Nick Saban’s team in 2013.

The 6-6, 225-pound Howard was the No. 1 ranked player at his position by both Rivals and 247Sports and will have an opportunity to step right into the Crimson Tide starting lineup after enrolling early and participating in spring practice. He did not look the part of a high school senior who should be wrapping up his high school days and prepping for prom and senior ditch day in April when he was catching everything in his general vicinity.

Alabama annually has had one of the top recruiting classes in the nation and last year was no different, but Howard slipped through the cracks somewhat when looking at the program’s incoming recruits. Players such as Derrick Henry, Reuben Foster, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner and Robert Foster garnered the most attention, but it’s Howard who will be stealing the headlines this fall.

Under Saban the overriding theme on offense has been a dominating run game behind an imposing offensive line and heady quarterback play. That will be the theme this year still despite the loss of Eddie Lacy and three offensive line All-Americans off to the NFL, but an increase in big-play strikes in the passing game will be more apparent this year than ever before.

The primary reason for that is Howard, who will be the team’s biggest x-factor in the passing attack which could be the most potent in school history. His ability to line up at the traditional tight end spot at the end of the line, flexed out or split out wide with his height and 4.42 speed will have opposing defenses unable to contain the arsenal of aerial weapons at AJ McCarron’s disposal.

With McCarron poised for a run at the Heisman trophy as a senior and super sophomore Amari Cooper on the perimeter flanked by Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell, Christion Jones and the return of a healthy Chris Black, the addition of Howard will create mismatches all over the field.

Howard is a future first round draft pick and brings to Tuscaloosa a skill-set that has been absent at Alabama essentially forever. He will become a fan favorite the moment he steps on the field in the season opener.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and add him to your Google network.

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