Who Are Probable First Team Tiders?

First of all, we KNOW there is no depth chart at Alabama. We also know that what seems to be the case in the spring is not necessarily what will be football season reality. But when Alabama announced its Crimson and White teams for Saturday's A-Day Game, speculation was invited.

Alabama will conclude spring football practice with the A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 1 p.m. CDT Saturday. There is no admission charge.

In an effort to make the game as competitive as possible, the first offense (as divined without a depth chart?) will go against the first defense and the second offense will be pitted against the second defense. That is accomplished by having the Crimson team made up of first offense and second defense and the White team first defense and second offense. It also allows reasonable deduction of the No. 1 players at most positions.

For the most part, players are ranked as expected. Some may be a bit surprised that true freshman Cam Robinson is with the first offense and, presumably, number one at the critical left tackle position. Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "He's done a good job, he really has. He's a young guy with a lot of ability. The learning curve is huge, but he's a bright guy, he's a smart guy, he's conscientious and is really trying to learn.

"Does he still make mental errors? Absolutely, but we feel like the best way for him to continue to develop is to be around players that can help him and support him. Hopefully we'll be able to develop a little chemistry with this group on the offensive line. Cam has done a really good job. He knows and we know that he has a ways to go and it'll be probably a little bit of a work in progress probably right up until the first game. Hopefully he'll be able to continue to make the improvements that he needs to make to be able to play winning football for us."

Robinson, a 6-6, 325-pound freshman, has veterans on the offensive line with him. Right tackle, left guard, and center will have returning starters from throughout last season, and right guard has the returning starter from the Sugar Bowl. They are left guard Arie Kouandjio (6-6, 315, senior), center Ryan Kelly (6-5, 296, junior), right guard Leon Brown (6-6, 320, senior), and right tackle Austin Shepherd (6-5, 320, senior).

Tight end is one of a few spots where more than one man would be considered first team. They are Brian Vogler (6-7, 265, senior) and O.J. Howard (6-6, 240, sophomore).

Quarterback was expected to be a battle in the spring (to be continued after the arrival of FSU transfer Jacob Coker in the summer), but in two scrimmages Blake Sims (6-0, 208, senior) has pulled away from the competition.

Running back includes tailbacks and H-back. There are two tailbacks who can be considered first team in returning starter T.J. Yeldon (6--2, 221, junior) and Sugar Bowl standout Derrick Henry (6-3, 241, soph). Jalston Fowler (6-1, 248, senior) has been the number one H-back (though Bama usually starts games with an extra wide receiver or tight end than with an H-back).

Amari Cooper (6-1, 204, junior) headlines a group of veteran receivers who could be considered first team. DeAndrew White (6-0, 190, senior) is listed with the Crimson team as a No. 1 player, although White has been out all spring recuperating from surgery to repair a toe injury and will not play Saturday. Christion Jones (5-11, 187, senior) is a two-year starter. Chris Black (5-11, 185, sophomore) is listed with the first team wide receivers, and so is (another slight surprise, perhaps) true freshman Cam Sims (6-4, 204), who has drawn praise from players.

Cole Mazza (6-1, 251, soph) earned the starting long snapper job as a freshman. Adam Griffith 5-10, 188, soph) is the only placekicker on scholarship. Most believe the Tide is waiting on true freshman J.K. Scott to be the 2014 punter, but the man on the Crimson team for Saturday is Adrian Lamoth (5-9, 190, sophomore) from Monterrey, Mexico.

On to the defense, and looking at the White squad:

Saban doesn't differentiate between defensive ends and nose tackles when listing players on the defensive line, but we know that A'Shawn Robinson (6-4, 320, soph) is an end and Brandon Ivory (6-4, 308, senior) is the returning starter at nose. Jarran Reed (6-4, 315, junior), a transfer from junior college, had been expected to be a nose tackle, but seems to be playing both end and tackle (tackle in four-man front situations), and in any event is one of the first-teamers. Anthony Orr (6-4, 289, senior) is also listed as a first teamer at defensive end.

Just as an aside on the defensive line, it would not be a surprise in the fall if the likes of sophomores Jonathan Allen (6-3, 270), Dalvin Tomlinson (6-2, 299), and Dee Liner (6-3, 295) didn't see plenty of playing time.

Linebacker is another position that seems to be a deep one, even considering that Crimson Tide is nominally (if not actually) a base 3-4 (three linemen, four linebackers) defense. The first teamers are not a surprise. They are Trey DePriest (6-2, 250, senior) at middle linebacker, Reggie Ragland (6-2, 257, junior) at weakside, Denzel Devall (6-2, 254, junior) at strongside, and Xzavier Dickson (6-3, 268, senior) and D.J. Pettway (6-3, 265, junior) battling at jack.

And as with the defensive line, one must consider the praise given by Saban this spring to linebackers Reuben Foster (6-1, 236, soph), Dillon Lee (6-4, 243, junior), Ryan Anderson (6-2, 258, sophomore), and true freshman Shaun Dion Hamilton (6-0, 233).

Alabama is nothing if not consistent with its defensive groupings. Just as defensive ends and defensive tackles are grouped as DLs, and all four linebacker positions are lumped together as LBs, safeties and cornerbacks and star (nickel) and money (dime) positions are all DBs. Alabama almost always starts the game with at least five defensive backs in the game.

Although Eddie Jackson (6-0, 188, soph) is listed with the first teamers, the cornerback suffered an ACL tear in the spring and has some rehabilitation work to do by fall. Top men at corner on Saturday will be Bradley Sylve (5-11, 180, junior) and Cyrus Jones (5-10, 194, junior). The top safeties will be returning starter Landon Collins (6-0, 215, junior) and Jarrick Williams (6-1, 215, senior). Saban has also had recent praise for Geno Smith (6-0, 197, junior), who has worked at cornerback, star, and (increasingly) safety.

Also consider that cornerback Maurice Smith (6-0, 195, soph) missed some spring work with a concussion, but was reported to be doing very well. True freshman Tony Brown (6-0, 190) turned some heads as a corner. At safety, Nick Perry 6-1, 211, senior) is returning from injury that forced him to redshirt last season. True freshman Laurence "Hootie" Jones (6-2, 220) got good reviews from Saban and from players.

This may seem like a lot of first team type players, and it may be there are more. It makes for great anticipation for the 2014 season.

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