With the offseason officially underway, SDS will examine what’s next for spring football for all 14 teams. Next up, Alabama.
Alabama opens spring practice Saturday, and A-Day will be held April 19th.
Alabama welcomes new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and a new quarterback who hasn’t been named yet. Along with losing AJ McCarron, the Tide are losing left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and Kevin Norwood on offense. Projected first-round picks CJ Mosley and Haha Clinton-Dix are also gone. Alabama has faced turnover before, but it’s rare to have a seamless transition like they’ve before. This is one of the most important springs of the Nick Saban era.
Position of concern
We’ll talk about the quarterbacks in a minute. Let’s start with Saban’s baby — the defensive secondary. With Clinton-Dix gone, as well as corner Deon Belue, the defensive concern is the secondary. Saban knows his defense must improve, specifically at corner – whether that’s playing true freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, or whether that’s seeing Cyrus Jones take a major step forward this spring. Corners with ball skills are a major need, and Saban will try and identify several this spring.
Position of strength
Alabama’s backfield is a stacked house. From TJ Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derek Henry to Altee Tenpenny, Jalston Fowler and Tyren Jones, how will Lane Kiffin keep everyone healthy? The reality is he can’t; it’ll be a shark-tanked frenzy for playing time. Yeldon leads all rusher with 2,343 yards and 26 touchdowns, but watch out for rising sophomore Derrick Henry. Also, Kenyan Drake will receive carries in 2014, too. Where does that leave Tenpenny, Fowler and Jones? It’s a good problem to have.
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Three signees who will get you excited
1. Cameron Robinson, OT: If you’re looking for an immediate impact offensive lineman, look no further than Robinson. He’s an early enrollee, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he wins the left tackle job this spring.
2. Da’Shawn Hand, DE: Saban has one of the country’s most elite athletes competing for playing time on defense as a freshman. Da’Shawn Hand could have a big freshman season at either defensive end or possibly even outside linebacker. He’s that athletic.
3. Tony Brown, CB: Brown is one of the fastest players in the country and ran with the Tide’s track team this winter. With playing time available, the early enrollee could win a starting gig this spring at corner.
Spring’s primary position battle
All eyes are on the quarterback battle. Blake Sims, Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris, David Cornwell and Parker McLeod will all battle this spring. FSU transfer Jacob Coker doesn’t arrive until after spring practice, and the returners will get first dibs to make the best first impression. Sims has the most experience, but the real challengers may be between Morris and McLeod. Regardless of who plays well this spring, Coker will likely still win the job come fall camp.
Emerging spring player prediction
The obvious player who will turn heads this spring is Derrick Henry, but it’s time for defensive back Geno Smith to play up to expectation. With Haha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri exiting stage left, Smith now becomes the favorite to start opposite Landon Collins. The Smith-Collins combo could be one of the best in college football, and I like Geno Smith to turn heads this spring and win a starting gig.
Offseason’s burning question
Who will start at left tackle?
Tide’s offseason crystal ball
Jacob Coker should be Alabama’s next signal caller this fall, though he won’t arrive until late spring. TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry will exit spring practice as No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart and ready for a big 2014 season. Linebacker Trey DePriest will also assume a much bigger role this spring in replacing CJ Mosley, but Alabama has to find a way to create a better pass rush this coming season. Look for both freshmen corners Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey to play many snaps this season.
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