It’s a new season for the Crimson Tide with a lot of new faces on the roster and several open positions to fill. Here are 10 things to look for during today’s A-Day game.
1. Offensive line
Alabama is still trying to figure out its best offensive line combination after the departures of left tackle Jonah Williams and center Ross Pierschbacher. To make matters more complicated, returning starter Jedrick Wills sustained an ankle injury and appears to be sidelined for the near future. Expect Alabama to rotate numerous offensive linemen, mixing and matching until it finds the group that works best.
2. New nose tackle
Quinnen Williams became a college football star while anchoring Alabama’s defensive line last season. With Williams headed to the NFL draft, there is gap in the middle of the line. The top candidates to replace Williams appear to be redshirt sophomore Phidarian Mathis or early enrollee DJ Dale, who has already earned reps with the first-team defense.
3. Eyes on Anoma
After entering the NCAA transfer portal earlier in the offseason, outside linebacker Eyabi Anoma has re-committed to Alabama football. The move appears to be paying off. A former 5-star recruit, the quick and physical pass-rusher earned SEC All-Freshman honors last season and could be poised for a breakout sophomore season. With Terrell Lewis still recovering from a knee injury, Anoma should receive plenty of reps with the first team.
4. Defense vs offense
The defense has typically dominated Alabama’s spring game, but this year could be different. With quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and last year’s cast of wide receivers returning, along with two capable running backs in Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. manning the backfield, the Crimson Tide’s offense could look like the more polished and game-ready group.
5. Tight end
With Irv Smith Jr. and Hale Hentges gone, there is intrigue surrounding who will step up at tight end next season. Kedrick James is suspended for the first four games this season, so redshirt junior Miller Forristall appears to be in position to lead the unit. Walk-on Giles Amos has received some buzz as well this spring. Cameron Latu recently made the move to tight end from outside linebacker.
6. New kicker on campus
Given the kicking problems that Alabama has endured the past several seasons, fans will be clamoring to get a look at early enrollee Will Reichard. From Hoover, Alabama, Reichard was rated the top kicker in the country, according to 247Sports composite. He will compete with incumbent Joseph Bulovas for the starting spot.
7. Offensive changes, or lack thereof
The only constant is change, and that’s been especially true of Nick Saban’s assistant coaches. The Crimson Tide’s offensive will be under the direction of a new coordinator once again this season. This time, it’s Steve Sarkisian, who served as coordinator for Alabama’s national championship loss against Clemson in the 2016 season. Although Sarkisian is now in control, it is yet to be seen how much the offense will actually change. The scrimmage could give fans a glimpse at any differences.
8. Young receivers
Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are well-known names among Alabama fans. But those watching the spring game will get a look at the younger, less recognizable players behind them. Saban has been pleased with the development of depth at wide receiver so far this spring. Tyrell Shavers, Slade Bolden and John Metchie could earn their share of the spotlight with big plays on Saturday.
9. Inside linebackers
Besides Dylan Moses, Saban has been somewhat critical of the inside linebacker unit so far this spring. Veteran Joshua McMillon is poised to start alongside Moses, but behind him is a lack of experience. Markail Benton, Jaylen Moody and Ale Kaho will look to showcase their development, and ease doubts about depth, in the spring game.
A crowd of 74,732 entered Bryant-Denny Stadium last season to watch Alabama’s spring game. It was the second-largest turnout for any spring game in the country, but it was only the ninth largest A-Day turnout in Nick Saban’s tenure. The game’s attendance has been hovering around 75,000 for the last three seasons, will this year’s attendance support that trend?