Alabama Football: Five questions for spring practice

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts to a play during the second half against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts to a play during the second half against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT /

Alabama football opens spring practice on Tuesday, March 20th. Check out five questions needing answers before the end of spring.

Alabama football will conduct 15 sessions of spring training, starting Tuesday, March 20th. One of the 15 sessions will be the A-Day game on April 21st. The Tide is expected to scrimmage during two other sessions, April 7th and April 14th.

Nick Saban and the Alabama football defensive staff must rebuild a defense that is technically replacing eight starters. Add late-season starters, Deionte Thompson and Dylan Moses, to regularly rotating player Raekwon Davis and the defense still needs to identify five new starters.

Both kicking specialists must be replaced, along with three starting wide receivers. Then there is the quarterback battle that will see much attention and no resolution this spring.

Going into spring, here are our best guesses for Alabama football depth charts on both sides of the ball.

2018 Defense Depth Chart and 2018 Offense Depth Chart

Let’s look at five questions for spring. The complete answers may not be clear until after fall camp, but hopefully, spring will bring at least some strong indications.

Who replaces Brad Bozeman at center?

The most likely options are Ross Piersbacher, Brandon Kennedy and Jonah Williams. Williams is a more physical Barrett Jones type player who can play anywhere on the offensive line. Left or right tackle seems more likely. He can play either and a flip to the right side would give Tua good blind-side protection.

Piersbacher is the probable choice. He is not as gifted physically as the others but he plays smart and would have no problem handling the blocking assignments. If Piersbacher stays at guard, Brandon Kennedy could win the job and Chris Owens may also get a chance.

Who replaces Da’Ron Payne at nose?

Replacing Payne is almost impossible. Few Crimson Tide players ever have had his package of size, strength, quickness and speed. The Tide may take a committee approach to replacing Payne. Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis and Quinnen Willaims can play end or inside on the line. Davis is tall for a nose but he is the one player closest to the physical phenom quality of Payne.

Johnny Dwight might break into the regular rotation. Redshirt freshman Phidarian Mathis impressed on the scout team last year. Early enrollee and true freshman, Stephon Wynn is also expected to play a role in 2018.

Which early enrollees step up in spring?

We have already mentioned Wynn. There are only four others with the early enroll numbers down for 2018. Punter Syler Delong must step up to replace J.K. Scott. How close he can come to matching Scott’s prodigious skills may not be known until actual games next fall.

JUCO transfer Saivion Smith is expected to earn a starting role in the secondary. Smith could play cornerback or safety.

Jarez Parks and Slade Bolton will have the spring to prove they can make a contribution next fall.

Transfer placekicker, Austin Jones will not enroll until summer. The spring will be open for redshirt freshman, Joseph Bulovas to prove he can contribute.

Who will be the starting cornerbacks?

Cornerback is wide open after the departure of Anthony Averett and Levi Wallace. Trevon Diggs and Jared Mayden have the inside tracks for one spot. If Saivion Smith plays corner, he will most likely earn a starting role.

Highly touted freshmen Patrick Surtain Jr., Eddie Smith and Josh Jobe do not arrive until summer. The other 2018 cornerback signee, Jalyn Armour-Davis also does not enroll until summer. Armour-Davis said during the recruiting cycle he was open to a redshirt season.

Who starts at safety next to Deionte Thompson?

Thompson played well during the playoffs filling in for an injured Hootie Jones. He is a near lock at one safety. Saivion Smith could be the other safety. Beyond, Smith, there are three guys who will battle for the other safety position: Xavier McKinney; Daniel Wright and Kyriq McDonald. Keaton Anderson could also be a factor at safety given his experience in the program.

One of this group will start next to Thompson and another one will likely play the Money position.

Five important questions. Will Alabama football fans get answers this spring? Perhaps so, the odds are better than learning who will start at QB against Lousiville.

Next: 30, 3-Star recruits who became great Tide players

Along with rebuilding the defense, Nick Saban has rebuilt the coaching staff. Only Brent Key returns in the same role as last season. That too will make for an interesting spring.