Tide late enrollees to watch: Defense

Not everyone takes a head start.

In January, Alabama welcomed eight early enrollees to campus for the spring semester.

But those eight freshmen represent less than one-third of the Crimson Tide’s 2014 signing class. Nineteen signees chose to attend prom and graduate from high school in the traditional fashion. And even though they are indeed a step behind their peers today, the distance isn’t insurmountable.

Sure, it’s easier to play as a true freshman when you enroll early. A semester of school and 15 spring practices make a world of difference. But as players such as Jonathan Allen showed last season, sometimes the summer offseason program and fall camp are enough to show you can play early.

With that said, here’s a look at four summer enrollees who could give Alabama’s offense a boost as freshmen:

DE Da'Shawn Hand: If you can get after the quarterback, there’s always a chance you’ll play. It doesn’t matter that Hand didn’t have the luxury of participating in spring practice, the five-star defensive end and top-10 overall prospect in the ESPN 300 has that innate ability to rush the passer, and that skill won’t go unspent. At 6-foot-4 and 262 pounds, he’s already there physically. The question for him is how he’ll handle the mental aspect of the jump from high school to college and whether he can earn the trust of coaches to stick to his assignment down in and down out.

CB Marlon Humphrey: Tony Brown got a head start, but Humphrey isn’t far behind. Both five-star cornerbacks will have the chance to contribute right away, even if Humphrey took the traditional route and graduated high school in May, unlike early enrollee Brown. Humphrey, though, is as far along in terms of physique and technical skills as any high school cornerback you can find. Playing at a powerhouse program such as Hoover (Ala.) High and learning from a father who played in the NFL prepared Humphrey for what’s ahead down the road from him in Tuscaloosa.

LB Rashaan Evans: He’s more than an interesting story about recruiting rivalries, people. Evans can flat out play. The No. 2-rated outside linebacker might not have made it to campus early, but because of his athleticism and ability to rush the passer, look for him to get an opportunity on specialty packages as a true freshman. Alabama needs more “quick twitch” defenders, as Nick Saban labeled them, and Evans fits that bill as someone who can play the run against more traditional offenses and play in space against spread attacks.

DL Joshua Frazier: Because he was a four-star prospect in a sea of blue-chippers, Frazier flew under the radar on national signing day. But don’t sleep on the 6-4, 336-pound tackle from Arkansas. Indication from inside Alabama is that he’s expected to make an impact right away. And what’s not to like? When your scouting reportInsider leads with “A mass of humanity” you’ve got a shot.