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Fresh faces: Alabama

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The Crimson Tide are looking for stability at left offensive tackle, and a pair of newcomers are in line for the job. Look for a freshman running back to play a key role for the second straight season, too.

Trent Richardson, RB: A year ago, it was Mark Ingram bursting onto the scene as a true freshman and rushing for 728 yards and averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Now it's Richardson's turn. He's a 5-foot-11, 220-pound speedster who could have gone anywhere in the country. Alabama coach Nick Saban called Richardson a great player when he signed, and that's not the kind of praise Saban randomly hands out every February when his signing classes are complete. With Glen Coffee leaving early for the NFL, look for Richardson to step into Coffee's role and emerge as one of the more productive true freshman running backs in the country.

James Carpenter, OT: Who's going to replace Andre Smith at left tackle? It sounds like Carpenter will get the first shot. The junior college newcomer went through spring practice and won the Bart Starr Award as one of the most improved players on the team. His junior college coach at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College called him the most complete offensive tackle he's ever coached. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Carpenter showed signs of being a dominant run-blocker in the spring, but still needs to polish up his pass protection skills some. Somebody's going to have to make a big push in the preseason to beat him out.

D.J. Fluker, OT: If anybody's going to beat out Carpenter, it will probably be Fluker. One of the most heralded prospects in this signing class, Fluker was on every prep All-America team. He's massive (6-foot-6 and 350 pounds) and certainly looks the part of a starting left tackle in the SEC. But so much of playing that position is mental and revolves around experience. Smith did it as a true freshman, but he was the exception. The best news for the Crimson Tide is that they will have options. Carpenter and Fluker will be able to push each other, and if one goes down, Alabama won't necessarily have to shuffle the whole line around to find a replacement.