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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Those five-star Alabama recruits coming in this summer will have some catching up to do with their early-arriving peers.
The Crimson Tide already has eight signees enrolled, and most of them are at positions where there happen to be vacancies.
Massive lineman Cam Robinson has spring practice to start competing to replace left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. Perhaps cornerback Tony Brown can use the extra time to take over for Deion Belue, or safety Laurence "Hootie" Jones will challenge for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's job.
Maybe quarterback David Cornwell will edge up the depth chart before Florida State transfer Jake Coker gets on campus.
Potential candidates for job openings at linebacker and on the defensive line are also already on hand for offseason workouts and the spring.
All that's getting way ahead of anything coach Nick Saban is talking about, but the opportunities are there for the early enrollees.
"I don't think there's any question about the fact that when you're a mid-year guy your transition to college is a little smoother transition because you have more time to make the transition," Saban said.
The Tide's recruiting class was rated the nation's best by all the major recruiting services on Wednesday. Brown and Robinson are two of the group's most highly rated players.
Saban made six of the eight available on Wednesday before putting into effect his rule against freshmen talking to the media.
The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Robinson, a top-5 national recruit, isn't taking it for granted that he'll replace the All-American Kouandjio.
"Of course I wouldn't mind starting," Robinson said, "but that's something you have to ask coach about."
He was the centerpiece of an impressive group of offensive linemen that included the nation's two top-rated centers.
"Oh man, we've got a great, great, great, great offensive line class coming in," Robinson said.
For defensive end D.J. Pettway, Wednesday was the second time he has celebrated signing with Alabama. The junior college transfer was one of four players dismissed from Alabama in February 2013 after being charged in two robberies in Tuscaloosa. The university said Pettway no longer faces charges and cleared him to return.
Former Alabama safety Eddie Williams had told police that Pettway and another teammate, Tyler Hayes, watched him commit one of the robberies from a nearby vehicle, according to court documents.
Pettway said discussions with Saban about his return were pretty much "about staying on the right track." He said he learned a lot during the last year.
"I learned how to be more courageous," Pettway said. "If I see anything or if I'm around anything bad happening around me, I'm willing to stop it or step forward. I'm willing to be the man that makes a change. I'm willing to help anyone around here — any of my teammates. I learned just to be more positive, be more grateful."
So when he got the offer to come back he described his emotions as "surprised, excited, humbled, eager — everything and anything you could think of."
Fellow East Mississippi Community College defensive lineman Jarran Reed is also in school.
Brown, who didn't speak to the media Wednesday, has already run into some trouble. He was charged in January with failure to obey and resisting arrest.
Cornwell's focus has been partly on rehabilitating from a knee injury sustained midway through last sason at Norman High School in Oklahoma, about three miles from the Sooners' campus.
He's not sure yet how much he'll be able to do in the spring under new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.
Cornwell is entering a crowded quarterback race, though the presumed front-runner isn't even around yet.
"I came here to compete. Jacob Coker, I know he is coming in," Cornwell said. "Great kid from what I hear. Excited to go and compete with these guys, see what I've got. Each day I'm going to get better, even if I don't win the job. But I'm here to compete, get better, help this team however I can."