Alabama Football: As spring practice begins, Saban has new challenge

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Spring practice marks the start of a new season for Alabama football. Nick Saban faces the tough challenge of rebuilding his team and his staff.

If prompted, Nick Saban would quickly exclaim the 2018 Alabama football team has won nothing. The most recent national championship belongs to the 2017 team. The fact Alabama football has won more national championships in nine seasons than it hasn’t does not indicate a continuum of success.

What the championship success affords is a continuum of opportunity. What the 2018 team does with that opportunity will be unclear for months. The blessing and the curse of Alabama football are every season’s success or failure is measured by a national championship. In the glorious nine-year dynasty, the Tide has been a repeat national champion only once.

Can the 2018 team be another for the history books?

Building the 2018 Alabama football team into one that can again make history will be tough. The defense returns few starters, none in the secondary unless Deionte Thompson is counted. The assistant coaching staff has changed so much only one coach has the same assignment as last season. Both coordinators are unproven in that task. To top it off are the ingredients for a quarterback controversy.

Nick Saban has his hands full. We suspect he would not want it any other way. Spring practice begins on March 20th. The Crimson Tide has at least as many questions as answers. The 15 spring sessions will give Alabama football fans clues. Nick Saban will guard any answers.

The QB situation will not have a clear answer until the fall. Saban respects Jalen and Tua so much he may even opt for the unconventional approach of a two-quarterback system. In typical Saban fashion, the offense in the spring game will be so vanilla, the new secondary will not be fully tested.

True freshmen not enrolling early and missing spring practice start well behind everyone else. Depth issues this season mean fall camp must be used for a few freshmen to prove themselves and perhaps gain a role in the two-deep. Eyabi Anoma, Jaylen Waddle, Patrick Surtain Jr. and Christian Barmore are four such players.

Is a ‘work-in-progress’ a stretch?

If it is ever appropriate to use a ‘work-in-progress’ to describe a team inside a dynastic run, it should be used for the 2018 season. Alabama football fans, unaccustomed to patience, may not see a championship quality team until mid-season or later. Fortunately, the schedule is conducive to a slow build. Louisville, Ole Miss in Oxford and Texas A&M are not guaranteed wins but September should be less challenging than recent seasons. The Tide will be a solid favorite in the October and November road games against Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.

It is tempting to think of the 11 games leading up to Auburn giving Saban ample time to build a championship team. A championship team up to the challenge of Auburn and the post-season. But we are getting way too far ahead. It is spring for the Crimson Tide and spring brings fewer knowns than unknowns.

Next: What we will not miss about the 2017 season

Get ready Alabama football fans. Bama Hammer will endeavor to post every morsel of information we can uncover as spring training unfolds.