For Alabama football players the first exam of fall camp comes on Saturday. They will have another a week later and even after grades from both scrimmages are in, competition will continue.
What will happen on Saturday and the following Saturday is players will fiercely compete. There will be regular season games when an opponent offers far less challenge than occurs when Alabama plays Alabama in fall scrimmages.
Nick Saban discussed competition among players earlier this week. While he was talking specifically about the quarterbacks, his statement applies to all players.
"I’ve told our quarterbacks you know fall camp is not the beginning of the end. You know, you got an opportunity to separate yourself to show that you can play with consistency and play winning football at the position. But that competition goes on and on and on."
It is true at any time during an Alabama football season, a starter can lose his job. Shifts in position groups that frequently rotate may not be common but the rotation assignments are fluid. After the second scrimmage, practice reps are adjusted and it becomes harder to move up the depth chart.
Alabama Football Defense – What to look for on Saturday
- There is broad expectation the first unit defensive line will be Justin Eboigbe, Jahein Oatis and Tim Smith. Next up should be Jah-Marien Latham, Damon Payne and Tim Keenan. Assuming the unit will rotate eight guys, which two of Monkell Goodwine, Khurtiss Perry, Anquin Barnes, Isaiah Hastings, and possibly James Smith, will it be? Will freshman Jordan Renaud show signs of working into the mix this fall?
- At inside linebacker, who steps in at Mike if Deontae Lawson is injured at any time during the season? A current guess is Trezmen Marshall. Another guess is Jihadd Campbell is close to securing the Will starter role. If so, will it be Jordan Jefferson next, or Shawn Murphy? And what about Kendrick Blackshire?
- With Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell clear starters at outside linebacker, can guys like Quandarrius Robinson and Keanu Koht work their way into a rotation? Is Keon Keely so good he leaps over Robinson and Koht in the depth chart? And what about snaps for Jeremiah Alexander, who reportedly has also looked great early in fall camp?
- Who wins the ‘other’ corner position opposite Kool-Aid is of considerable interest. It could be Terrion Arnold, who appears to lead, but Trey Amos cannot be counted out.
- As many as five Crimson Tide defensive backs have worked out at the Star or fifth cornerback spot. If Malachi Moore starts at safety, rather than Star, one of Earl Little II, Devonta Smith, Trey Amos and Jalen Key could win out in the Tide’s nickel.
- Has freshman Caleb Downs locked down one of the safety positions? What about Kristian Story, Devonta Smith and Jalen Key?
- There is no clear leader at Money, but Story and Key are physically well-suited.
- What others have a chance to be in the secondary’s two-deep, maybe Antonio Kite and Jake Pope?
The first camp scrimmage will not provide clear answers. But for Alabama football fans, scrimmage reports can give good clues as to what to expect in the two weeks that will follow.
There is growing optimism among Crimson Tide fans that the Alabama defense will be more than improved in 2023.