Here are some players you need to keep an eye of for Saturday’s A-Day game.
Key stat: Had 8 receptions for 160 yards and 3 TDs as a freshman in 2017
Buzz: The last time you saw Smith, he was catching the game-winning touchdown pass against Georgia in the national title game. He also made the game-winning catch against Mississippi State in November. Smith is one of Alabama’s three sophomore receivers, along with Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, who will form the backbone of the wideouts this fall. Jeudy (knee) is expected to be out on A-Day, which could mean more time for Smith. Also keep an eye out for him on defense, where he has moonlighted at cornerback to add depth to the secondary.
Key stat: 41 of his 42 career starts have been at left guard
Buzz: Pierschbacher looked poised to move to center before the 2016 season after the departure of Ryan Kelly. He practiced at the position all spring before Bradley Bozeman took over there late in fall camp and Pierschbacher moved back to guard. Pierschbacher is working at center again as Alabama tries to find its best five offensive linemen for this fall. He’s the most experienced offensive lineman among a group of veteran players. All that playing time could help him to make the calls needed at the position.
Brian Robinson Jr.
Key stat: Ran 24 times for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2017, averaging 6.9 yards per
Buzz: Alabama’s backfield was loaded last season, but Robinson found some moments to showcase his abilities as a true freshman. There should be more opportunities this season. Damien Harris and Najee Harris have been ahead of Robinson this spring. A healthy Josh Jacobs would also have a role in the backfield. Robinson is more than just a hometown player who adds depth, though. He’s a load at running back, an option as a lead blocker and a special teams player to boot.
Key stat: Ranked as nation’s No. 2 junior college prospect this season
Buzz: Alabama’s top five defensive backs from last season are all gone, meaning an entirely new secondary must be developed. Smith has appeared to be the starter at one of the cornerback spots in spring. The former LSU Tiger played well for Mississippi Gulf Coast, the same school defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs came from. He’ll be worth keeping an eye on against Alabama’s young receivers.
Key stat: Had 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last year
Buzz: There may not be another Da’Ron Payne on the roster, but look for Williams to be among a group of players vying to play in the middle of the defensive line. Redshirt senior Johnny Dwight and redshirt freshman Phidarian Mathis will also be expected to play more this season. Williams’ numbers didn’t come in garbage time or against nonconference teams last year; he had five tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack against LSU in his best game of 2017.
Key stat: Had 6 tackles while missing 10 games last year due to injury
Buzz: Miller was one of the first Alabama linebackers to go down to injury last year. He returned in time to make a sack in the national championship game against Georgia. Miller still seems to have a wealth of untapped potential as a redshirt senior. He worked his way into the rotation in 2016, then saw his season nearly derailed in the opener last year. He should have a strong opportunity to make his mark this fall at a position that has plenty of depth.