5 things Alabama needs to accomplish in its spring game
Name: A-Day Spring Game
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network Plus
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Format: White (first-team offense/second-team defense) vs. Crimson (second-team offense/first-team defense
Clock: Running clock until final four minutes of each half; clock stops after change of possession, timeouts and scores
Coming off an SEC championship season, Alabama has questions all over its roster. While still considered an early favorite for another West crown, the Crimson Tide have work to do. Here are five priorities that can help make A-Day a success.
1. See what you’ve got in the secondary
Alabama has just one secondary position somewhat set, and that player, cornerback Cyrus Jones, has missed the entire spring with a hip injury. Everything else is up in the air. Geno Smith has worked with the second team at safety after returning from his arrest, while Eddie Jackson has spent time at safety as well after starting 11 games at cornerback last season. Mel Tucker has to at least begin to sort out the cornerback rotation, which will include Tony Brown, Bradley Sylve and Marlon Humphrey as well. At safety, Jabriel Washington and Hootie Jones are fighting for time, while freshman Ronnie Harrison has a chance to back up his practice buzz with a nice showing.
2. Give the quarterbacks a chance
If Jacob Coker has proven himself as the best quarterback in camp, this might not be the case, but unless you want to read between the lines with a microscope, what we’ve heard from the coaching staff doesn’t indicate a whole lot of separation between Coker and the field. Last weekend, Nick Saban said he’s waiting for a quarterback to grab control of the race. While Coker will play with the starters on Saturday, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett, Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman should and will get a shot to show what they’ve got. Seeing which quarterbacks click with which wide receivers will help push Alabama toward answers in the passing game, too.
3. Play around with Kenyan Drake
The Crimson Tide offense was the most prolific in school history, yardage-wise, in 2014, even though it was without one of its most versatile weapons in Drake, who missed most of the year with a broken leg. Now, Drake is back at full strength, and Alabama has been experimenting with him at wide receiver. Lane Kiffin won’t want to give away too much, but letting Drake work out of different alignments in a game simulation should give the OC a better idea of what kind of weapon he has.
4. Look cohesive up front
After losing three starters from 2014, Alabama seems to have settled on a new offensive line alignment: Cam Robinson, Ross Pierschbacher, Ryan Kelly, Bradley Bozeman and Dominick Jackson (left to right). Last year’s offensive line was disjointed at times, specifically in the running game, as injuries knocked players out for a game here and there. A-Day is this year’s line its first chance to start developing chemistry as a five-man unit.
5. Find a front-runner for the second inside linebacker spot
Alabama’s front seven is all but set, with nearly the entire defensive line as well as Reggie Ragland and Ryan Anderson returning for 2015. The Tide are looking for someone to replace stalwart Trey DePriest, and two players seem to be competing for the role: Reuben Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton. Both should get playing time with the first team on Saturday. There are more questions come from Foster’s end: Has he cleaned up his tackle enough to stop hurting himself? Can he be an every-down player and not just a special teams terror?