Alabama football: 5 things we want to see during A-Day
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We’re only a few days from Alabama’s A-Day spring game, which is both good and bad.
The good news is that fans and detractors get a glimpse at the 2019-2020 Alabama squad. The bad news is this will be the last time we see them until August.
Alabama’s A-Day spring game is set for 2 p.m. (Eastern) inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN will televise the matchup that features Alabama’s first-team offense and second-team defense against its first-team defense and second-team offense.
Here are five things we want to see in Alabama’s spring game on Saturday.
1. Quarterbacks not named Tua Tagovailoa
We all know about the 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa and what he brings to Alabama. He’s the unquestioned starter, and should be one of the favorites to make it to New York for the Heisman ceremony again this season.
But with Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, every quarterback behind Tagovailoa is unproven. Mac Jones is the backup. He played well during A-Day last year against Alabama’s second-team defense. Jones is talented, but it’s unclear how he’ll perform if forced into live action given his lack of experience. A-Day should provide another opportunity for his to get “game action.”
Beyond that, there are newcomers Taulia Tagovailoa or Paul Tyson. Neither has any experience, but it’ll be interesting to see how the reps are split between those two and which teams they are on. Alabama could play Tua sparingly so the young guys are given more opportunities. Alabama’s backup quarterback is one of the most important positions this coming season.
2. What the front seven looks like
Alabama lost Quinnen Williams, Isaiah Buggs, Christian Miller and Mack Wilson from the front seven last year. That’s a lot of production Williams and Wilson were two of Alabama’s top 5 tacklers. Miller, Buggs and Williams were the top 3 in sacks.
Alabama has a lot of talent, but it’s not very experienced. Look for Joshua McMillon to step in for Wilson at inside linebacker. LaBryan Ray is a guy who’ll get a lot of snaps along the defensive line. Freshman defensive lineman DJ Dale has impressed during scrimmages, according to reports.
Anfernee Jennings is back at outside linebacker. So is Terrell Lewis, but he won’t be available Saturday. That means more reps for young guys. Alabama needs players to step up in the front seven so the defense doesn’t slip this season.
3. Receivers vs. secondary
If there is one matchup where you can get a real sense for how good each side is during a spring game, it’s the wide receivers against the secondary. Alabama has some of the best receivers in the country, and its secondary could be one of the tops in the SEC if the parts come together.
We’ll get to see Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle against Trevon Diggs, Josh Jobe, Patrick Surtain II, Xavier McKinney, Jared Mayden, Shyheim Carter and others. This alone is worth watching A-Day. Playoff teams picked on Alabama’s secondary last year. Getting back to the Bama standard has been an objective this spring.
4. Who will be the A-Day MVP?
A-Day MVP is a pretty cool honor as a player gets a chance to be recognized in front of the friendly crowd. Some early favorites are Najee Harris, Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle. That’s no slight to the other skill players, but I believe one of those three guys will have the biggest day Saturday.
If I have to pick one, I’ll go with Jeudy. Look for Jeudy to have over 100 receiving yards and a couple of touchdowns.
5. How will the new coaches manage A-Day?
This is always one of the forgotten aspects of A-Day. Nick Saban takes a step back, and watches from the field, which leaves the coordinators and assistants to do the actual coaching. With Alabama having essentially a new staff, this will be interesting to watch.
Will there be issues, particularly with the defensive signals? Saban is a big proponent of getting the coaches out of the way so the players can play. That’s the best way for them to learn what to do so they’ll be ready for a real game.