2013 Alabama Early Enrollees Profiles

Alabama Football

**Note: This was a print-only story**

Cooper Bateman
6-3, 208 lbs
Salt Lake City, Utah (Cottonwood)

The most heralded quarterback out of the three joining the Crimson Tide roster for spring practice, Cooper Bateman is arguably the best quarterback prospect to sign with Alabama since current starter AJ McCarron did in 2009.

Although his senior year statistics are modest (2,384 yards, 15 TDs, 7 INTs), his scouting report is far from it. Described as a pro-style quarterback, Bateman has received high marks for both his arm strength and his ability in making the right reads. He also has the athleticism to run as a quarterback, rushing for 277 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Bateman won’t overtake McCarron as the starter in 2013, but he is already being touted by many as his successor in 2014 when the senior leaves for a likely spot in the NFL. It would not come as a huge surprise if Bateman eventually beats out Blake Sims for the backup job behind McCarron this season.

Leon Brown
Offensive Line
6-6, 313 lbs
Riverdale, Md. (ASA College)

Leon Brown joins the Crimson Tide roster this spring as the lone junior college transfer in Alabama’s 2013 class. The offensive tackle spent the past two seasons playing junior college football in Brooklyn, N.Y. to better prepare himself for playing Division I football.

With D.J. Fluker having departed this offseason for the NFL, Brown, a junior, has a golden opportunity to compete for a starting job at right tackle. Junior Austin Shepherd will be the man to beat at the position, but Brown may not be too far behind due to his starting experience at ASA and his prior friendships with Arie and Cryus Kouandjio – both likely starters on the Alabama offensive line – growing up in Maryland.

Brown was a second-team, all-conference selection in the Northeast Football Conference last season.

Luke Del Rio
6-2, 203 lbs
Denver, Colo. (Valor Christian)

Out of the three quarterbacks joining the team this spring, Luke Del Rio may very well have the most to prove. Del Rio, the son of former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and current Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, chose to become a preferred walk-on at Alabama in December after previously holding a commitment to play quarterback at Oklahoma State.

The decision to join the Crimson Tide came as a surprise for many with Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod – both on scholarship – having already committed to play at Alabama as well. However, head coach Nick Saban isn’t one to play favorites, giving Del Rio as good of a chance as any to legitimately compete for a spot behind starter AJ McCarron on the depth chart.

Del Rio, a pro-style quarterback, passed for 2,275 yards and 28 touchdowns with only four interceptions, leading Valor Christian to a state championship in his lone season at the school.

Raheem Falkins
Wide Receiver
6-4, 203 lbs
New Orleans, La. (G.W. Carver)

With every wide receiver returning to the team from a year ago, it’s going to take a lot for Raheem Falkins to see any action in 2013.

Scouts note Falkins as a physical wide receiver with a knack for going up and getting the football in traffic. Last fall, Falkins had 47 catches for 1,058 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Falkins is one of three wide receivers joining an already crowded receiving corps this season, but the only one already enrolled and participating in spring football. This may play to his benefit in seeing some early playing time, but barring several significant injuries to his fellow receivers, a redshirt seems imminent.

Derrick Henry
Running Back
6-3, 238 lbs
Yulee, Fla. (Yulee)

Since the arrival of head coach Nick Saban in 2007, the Crimson Tide has annually brought in a plethora of talented running backs, but none have quite drawn the interest like Derrick Henry has this offseason.

Henry is an abnormally large running back built more like a linebacker or a tight end, which has raised plenty of questions about his future position at the college level. But Henry has incessantly stated his desire to play running back and for good reason, too.

Henry was among the most dominating high school football players in the country last season when he set the national high school rushing record with 12,212 yards.

With three other top-rated running backs arriving this fall, Henry will benefit from getting an early leg up on half his competition for this season. He won’t be the feature back this season, but he will contribute in some capacity.

O.J. Howard
Tight End
6-6, 237 lbs
Autauga, Ala. (Autauga Academy)

Not often is a tight end the prized recruit in a team’s class, but one can make the case that’s exactly what O.J. Howard is for Alabama.

Out of any freshman on the team for next season, it’s Howard who has the best chance at making an immediate impact. Howard, the consensus No. 1 tight end in the country for the class of 2013, is an athletic, playmaking tight end with great size and the hands and speed of a wide receiver.

By enrolling early and with tight end Michael Williams and fullback Kelly Johnson both gone from last season, Howard has a great opportunity in holding a fairly significant role in the Tide offense next season.

Brandon Hill
Offensive Line
6-6, 385 lbs
Collierville, Tenn. (Hargrave Military Academy)

Technically, a member of Alabama’s 2012 recruiting class, Brandon Hill arrives one semester late after failing to clear the NCAA Clearinghouse to play football last fall due to academic issues.

After spending the fall improving his grades while playing football at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., Hill joins JUCO transfer Leon Brown as one of two offensive linemen to enroll early this spring.

Hill, who was rated as the No. 1 prep school offensive tackle last season, will compete with Brown among others at right tackle this spring. Although Hill isn’t expected to see much playing time this season, but he may have a better chance at contributing than some as he can also play guard.

Parker McLeod
6-3, 193 lbs
Marietta, Ga. (Walton)

To no fault of his own, Parker McLeod may be the least interesting early enrollee quarterback at the start of spring practice, but has the ability to become the most interesting of the trio by the end of it.

McLeod neither holds the expectations that Cooper Bateman does nor did he take an unusual route in joining the team like Luke Del Rio. He won’t make the spectacular throws, but he will make all the right throws. His strengths lie in his accuracy and delivery in throwing the football.

As a scholarship quarterback that is ultimately expected to sit somewhere behind Bateman – who is also on scholarship – on the depth chart, McLeod will likely be redshirted this season.

Jai Miller
Defensive Back
6-3, 213 lbs
Selma, Ala.

The Alabama football program is renowned for sending many of its players on to becoming pro athletes, but not for bringing pro athletes in as players. Then again, not every player is Jai Miller.

Miller is a 28-year-old freshman safety returning to football after 10 years of playing Major League Baseball for four different organizations. A multisport star in high school, Miller was recruited to play football and basketball at Alabama before opting for a career in baseball.

Now with his baseball career finished, Miller has his work cut out for him as he faces a new challenge in a crowded Alabama secondary. A starting job is unlikely for Miller over veterans Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri or even sophomore standout Landon Collins, but some playing time is not. The clock is ticking for Miller, so an impressive spring is crucial for him.

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