The prologue to the 2019 Alabama football season is about to be written. The Crimson Tide will begin spring football practice Friday, coming together on the field for the first time as a new team. Early enrollees will suit up. New coaches will be at work, including some making their second tour of duty in Tuscaloosa.
Head coach Nick Saban will speak to the media Friday afternoon, something he hasn’t done since his press conference on national signing day. He’ll likely receive questions about the coaching staff, up-and-coming players and more. The team will have one practice before departing for spring break, then resume later in March. Spring practice wraps up April 13 with the A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Here are five things to watch as spring practice kicks off.
1. Redoing the defense
The Alabama defense played at a high level in 2018 but still seemed a step below its customary level under Saban. This season, it has to replace key players like Isaiah Buggs, Christian Miller, Saivion Smith, Deionte Thompson, Quinnen Williams and Mack Wilson. The roster still has plenty of talent, but it had plenty of talent in 2018 as well. The defense must now see if it can find its top form again in 2019.
2. Coaching staff
Saban doesn’t have to rebuild his coaching staff every season, but he has had several new assistants both last year and this year. Alabama has five brand-new coaches, plus the return of Steve Sarkisian and Sal Sunseri. Pete Golding is also officially the new defensive coordinator. Getting the new staff acquainted with the players, the program and one another will be one of UA’s top priorities.
3. Offensive line combinations
The Crimson Tide is replacing left tackle Jonah Williams and center Ross Pierschbacher. They had a combined 101 starts, including at least one at all five offensive line positions between the pair of them. Alex Leatherwood, Jedrick Wills Jr. and Matt Womack all have experience and should be in the mix. Look for Chris Owens, Emil Ekiyor Jr. and others to be the next ones to get an opportunity.
4. The kicking game
Early enrollee Will Reichard happened to be the No. 1 kicker in the nation, and he happened to be just down the road in Hoover. He’ll have the opportunity to compete with Joseph Bulovas on field goals and kickoff and also with Skyler DeLong at punter. Reichard may end up filling any of those three roles. Bulovas seemed to be more consistent as 2018 went along, while DeLong spent the back half of the season on the bench. Reichard can help, though time will tell where he can help the most.
5. Backup quarterback
Alabama had two elite players on top of its quarterback depth chart in 2017 and 2018, and the team needed both of them at times in both seasons. Tua Tagovailoa may be the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite this fall, but Mac Jones is the only player with any experience behind him. Freshmen Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson, both on campus for spring, are the two newcomers in the Crimson Tide’s quarterback room.
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.