Countdown to kickoff: 44

From now until kickoff in Arlington, Texas, we'll be counting down the days before Alabama and Michigan get the season started. Today, we move to No. 44 and what it means to UA football. See all the previous editions here.

No. 44 on the University of Alabama roster certainly looks the part.

LaMichael Fanning is built to be a defensive end. The long, lean Georgia native is too strong for tight ends to block and too quick for offensive linemen. At 6-foot-7, 298 pounds, he's one of the largest men on the field at all times.

But Fanning didn't come to Tuscaloosa that way. In fact, it may be one of the reasons coach Nick Saban and Co. decided to redshirt him last season despite showing promise during fall camp. Like many true freshmen in college, Fanning enrolled looking more like a basketball player than someone who battles in the trenches. After a year in the weight room and in line at the cafeteria, Fanning put on nearly 30 pounds.

(You'll remember Adrian Hubbard signed with Alabama at a stringy 227 pounds. He's currently listed at 248 pounds.)

With the redshirt gone and more bulk to his frame, there's reason to expect Fanning to contribute on defense. The former top-20 defensive end prospect will have plenty of competition, though, with Ed Stinson, Quinton Dial and others vying for spots alongside Jesse Williams at nose tackle. If Fanning were to get into the rotation, it could give the Crimson Tide some much needed depth on the defensive line -- a position that values fresh legs above all else.