The Alabama Crimson Tide begin Spring Football in less than ten days (March 16) and Tide fans are emerging from hibernation hungry for football and cautiously sniffing for hints of a three-peat. The winter off-season, though brief, has given fans and critics time to ponder a few questions as the Crimson Tide look for ways to capture an unprecedented fourth title in a five year stretch.
Running Backs. Alabama is blessed with a fleet of running backs. Eddie Lacy has departed for the NFL but fans are eager to see T. J. Yeldon get more touches this season. Fan favorite Jalston Fowler returns from injury and, if close to 100 percent, should make an impact at Fullback. Drake and Hart (returning from injury) are looking for playing time but newcomers Derrick Henry, who enrolled early, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny will compete for time as freshmen.
Quarterbacks. AJ McCarron has already written his name permanently into the Alabama history books, but the role of heir apparent appears to be wide open at the moment. With rumors of a possible Phillip Ely transfer emerging, eyes are on Blake Sims (the only other QB with playing time) to compete with Ely and Alec Morris for the slot but three incoming freshmen are already enrolled: Cooper Bateman, Parker McLeod and walk-on Luke Del Rio. It could be a very tight battle going into the Fall. Keep an eye on Bateman.
Defense. Alabama always has a good defense and fans are confident that Coach Saban and his staff will have a top-ranked unit prepared to take the field in the Fall. Attrition on the defensive line could allow Dee Liner to start as a true freshman if he buys in, so to speak, to the Saban philosophy. The defense is, perhaps, one of the main question marks going into the Spring with plenty of opportunities for leaders to emerge.
Offensive Line. Alabama had one of the best lines in school history last season, according to many, but there will be holes to fill in the Spring. It’s too early to tell who will step up to protect McCarron and create holes for the RB fleet, but new coach Mario Cristobal appears capable of building a solid unit.
Receivers. Amari Cooper and Christion Jones emerged as stars last season, but fans are eager to see Chris Black in action for the first time. Kenny Bell and DeAndew White return from injury. The always reliable Kevin Norwood is still around but will miss spring practice with an injury. However, the off-season has taken a toll with Marvin Shinn looking to transfer and Danny Woodson Jr. getting suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.
In every off-season, there can be distractions but with every distraction there comes an opportunity. Four players removed themselves from school over the break due to some bad choices. Coach Saban has commented that he is pleased with the work players have done over the break and added that every year is a new challenge and players have to “respect the principles and values of the organization.” After the Spring, there will be a drought of football news until Summer camp begins. Kickoff for the game against Virginia Tech is August 31. Between now and then, look for a few leaders to emerge and, perhaps, a quarterback and a running back to transfer to a smaller school.
Follow William on Twitter