Alabama will put spring practice to bed once the spring game arrives on April 20th.
Even with the team labeled by many to be the frontrunners for the national championship—and with 13 starters returning from last year—there are questions that will carry over to the fall.
The goal in the spring is to address as many issues as possible, but spring ball simply doesn't provide enough time to answer every question on the list. The Crimson Tide has fewer concerns than most, although that doesn't mean there won't be things to work on during the next set of practices later in the year.
With the Crimson Tide about as comfortable as a team could be this early in the offseason, here are the few questions that will remain once spring ball comes to an end.
Last year Alabama had one of the best offensive lines you will ever see at the collegiate level. This year a few of those pieces have left the building, including future NFL players Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker. Whether or not Alabama has the talent to replace those guys, putting together an elite offensive line isn't something that is done overnight.
It takes time for guys to understand their assignments, get comfortable with the guy next to them and figure things out by working with a new position coach. Mario Cristobal is now the guy in charge of this unit, and he has the task of learning about players on the fly and putting them in the best position to succeed.
Think this is so easy?
Well, according to Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com, Ryan Kelly may in fact play the tackle position this year. Forget about being the starting center; there is a possibility he may play a completely new position, which of course leaves an opening in the middle of the line. Let the madness begin.
Moving guys around, learning the faces and then coming up with a starting five that best fits what this team is trying to do takes time. Cristobal will expect a few more months before putting together a concrete unit.
Running Back Rotation
Due to the explosiveness and ability to shine as a true freshman a year ago, I think it is safe to say that T.J. Yeldon is going to be the starting running back this season.
Once you start trying to pick the guys behind him in a certain order, you will likely end up with various different lists, depending on who you ask.
Many like Kenyan Drake, who averaged close to seven yards a carry in mop-up duty last season. Others could see Jalston Fowler return to form and be that workhorse runner. After all, he was off to a terrific start last season, averaging 7.7 yards a touch before getting injured in the second game of the season.
There is also a 2013 recruit who shouldn't be slept on just yet in Derrick Henry. Possessing a unique frame for a running back at 6'3", 240 pounds, Henry has been called a bigger Trent Richardson. Whatever you want to call him, he happens to be the all-time high school leading rusher and wants nothing more than to prove he can play the position.
It may not matter who the No. 2 back on this team is, because everybody is sure to receive a respectable amount of touches within this offense. These guys are all too talented to leave off the field, but for bragging rights, we would all like to see who the true backup running back is on this football team.
In a perfect world, the coaching staff would love for A.J. McCarron to take all of the snaps and not even have to worry about putting another guy out there on the field. But we know college football rarely goes the way you would like, and having a reliable backup is a must if you're trying to win a national title.
Blake Sims seems to be the favorite at the moment. He is more of an athletic quarterback and has experience, throwing a combined 52 pass attempts in the last two seasons. Phillip Ely had a nice touchdown strike in last year’s game against Mississippi State, but that is just about all he has shown in his first year as a backup.
Redshirt freshman Alec Morris also stands a shot, due to his 6'3" size and ability to get rid of the ball quickly.
The dark horse in this whole thing is 2013 recruit Cooper Bateman. He is considered to be the future of this program and could end up becoming the starter as early as next season, once McCarron graduates.
However, if nobody is stepping up and taking advantage of their opportunities, it wouldn't be insane to see Bateman in a No. 2 role in a worst-case scenario.
Much like every position on this Alabama roster, this team has the talent to sit back and continue to observe how things pan out. A decision on this position doesn't need to be made right away, which is why the coaching staff will give players more time and see who impresses the most in fall camp.
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