Alabama’s Five Biggest Questions For Spring Practice


Spring is upon us and with A-Day right around the corner, Alabama fans have a lot of questions heading into the 2015 season. Alabama players and coaches will attempt to start to answer many of those questions in the spring. Let’s look at the top five questions we are thinking about heading into the spring game.

Who replaces Blake Sims?

Just like last season, the number one question going into 2015 is who the QB at Alabama will be. There are multiple options at the position with Jacob Coker, David Cornwell, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, and freshman Blake Barnett.

Jacob Coker, the senior transfer from Florida State, is the odds on favorite to win the starting nod in 2015. The strong armed gunslinger lost out to Blake Sims last year but has reportedly vastly improved on his knowledge of the offense.

With that said, last season is proof that you can’t count anyone out in Alabama’s QB competition. Virtually no one picked Sims to beat out Coker, including ESPN “experts,” but not only did Sims beat out Coker, he shattered the Alabama single season passing record book.

One thing that Sims brought to the table that others couldn’t last season was his ability to scramble and make things happen with his legs. Freshman Blake Barnett brings those intangibles to the game, along with a strong arm, but David Cornwell seems to be gaining ground in the competition according to those that have witnessed practice.

Cornwell has a massive arm and is big and strong, probably the most prototypical, natural pro-style QB on the team. Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman have also been in the system for a long while now, much like Sims had been last year, so they can’t be counted out either.

It will be interesting to see how each QB plays in A-Day but as we have seen almost every year, you can’t use how a QB performs in A-Day as a very good measure of how they will do during the season. This question will likely not even come close to being answered until the fall, but it is still fun to think about.

Can Derrick Henry handle the full load?

Whoever wins out that QB competition, one thing is for sure: Derrick Henry will be their best friend. For the first time in his career, junior running back Derrick Henry will become the workhorse of the Alabama offense, likely handling the bulk of the load in the backfield.

Henry is a massive, strong back that possesses the speed and agility that is completely unnatural for a player that size. He has never had to handle the full load at Alabama but will likely be called upon to be that 20 carry a game back that he wants to be this year.

The fact that Henry is a solid pass catcher out of the backfield and has vastly improved his blocking means that he can stay on the field all three downs, which is rare in this day and age of running backs. Alabama has a nice stable of talent behind Henry but not a lot of experience, with speedster Kenyan Drake coming off of a serious leg injury.

Replacing Jalston Fowler at fullback is going to be something that will be hard to do but something that is going to be a big necessity. Fowler was huge in both his run blocking and his pass catching ability. AJ McCarron’s baby brother, Corey McCarron, will likely get a shot there but it may end up being someone like the much bigger Ty Smith that gets the nod.

Can Kenyan Drake return to form?

Speaking of Kenyan Drake, whether or not he can return to his old form following his gruesome leg injury last year is a big question. Drake is already back on the practice field and running. In fact, he has been running routes as much as running through holes in the spring so far.

Alabama has had Drake practicing at receiver as much as running back so far, and that likely stems from Lane Kiffin’s belief in having his best players on the field regardless of position. Drake proved that he could be dangerous in the slot last season and I fully expect Drake to play there more and more in 2015 and Kiffin to use him much like he used Reggie Bush at USC. If Drake manages to return to the same shiftiness and speed he had before his injury, he could end up becoming one of the biggest weapons in Kiffin’s arsenal regardless of who the QB is.

How does the defense bounce back?

Alabama’s defense had a rough 2014. The secondary got burned more times than anyone would like to talk about and even the typically dominant defensive line got simply abused in the Sugar Bowl.

Eddie Jackson had a rough year, and despite a torn ACL in the spring last year he is expected to bounce back this year. Cyrus Jones was Alabama’s most consistent cornerback last year, and his return is a huge plus for the secondary.

Sophomores Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey are expected to make a big impact, and I fully expect them to. Replacing Landon Collins will be much harder and likely more of a team effort with Hootie Jones, Geno Smith, and possibly a pair of freshmen all playing in his spot. Alabama improved their pass rush last season, but Xzavier Dickson is gone. Sophomore Rashaan Evans will likely get a lot more of an opportunity to show off his speed in pass rush situations, and A’Shawn Robinson is going to be returning to his outside position at defensive end if JUCO transfer Jonathan Taylor can come in and start right away at nose which should vastly improve the pass rush of the defensive line.

Who replaces Cooper and company?

Amari Cooper shattered every receiving record imaginable at Alabama last season. Replacing Cooper alone would be tough, but replacing Cooper, DeAndrew White, and Christion Jones all in one year is downright mind blowing.

Alabama has a ton of talent at receiver but the problem is they don’t have a ton of experience. Chris Black, Robert Foster, Raheem Falkins, Cam Sims, and ArDarius Stewart all possess the ability to be star players at the position for Alabama, but they simply don’t have the experience at this point.

Kenyan Drake moving to the slot some will help as will OJ Howard playing both in the slot and tight end as well. Howard has the ability to be Alabama’s top weapon in the passing game but he has to continue to improve his blocking to insure that he doesn’t come off the field as much as in the past.

Some of these questions will not even come close to being answered until the fall rolls around but others we will at least start to answer at A-Day.