The robins – known as a harbinger of Spring – have been around Tuscaloosa for a couple of weeks, but we still have about two more weeks until the official first day of Spring on March 19. There is one other sure sign that occurs this Friday.
Alabama football has its first day of spring practice.
Spring is ordinarily a very busy time in college athletics. In addition to spring sports being in full swing, the winter sports (basketball, gymnatics, swimming) are in championship events.
And then there is spring practice. This is not a public spectacle, other than the A-Day Game, which will be at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 16. The Crimson Tide ordinarily has a good crowd for the Spring game, although attendance has waned in recent years.
One would think that fans would be anxious to see this year’s Crimson vs. White game, for which there is no admission charge. Alabama is coming off another national championship season – the fourth in the last seven years under Coach Nick Saban. It will also be a spring with a couple of new assistant coaches, including Jeremy Pruitt replacing Kirby Smart as defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. And of most interest is the quarterback battle as Bama will have a new starter at the most important position in 2016.
Indeed, there will be a number of new starters for the Crimson Tide in the upcoming season. As Saban will likely point out at some point, this is not the national championship team. It is quite a bit different.
In addition to Southeastern Conference Championship Game MVP Jake Coker being lost at quarterback, the offense also must replace Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry at tailback and Rimington Award winner Ryan Kelly at center. Among defensive losses are Reggie Ragland at middle linebacker, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed on the line, and Geno Matias-Smith at safety.
The quarterback battle may be the most interesting, but Bama should have confidence in Lane Kiffin, entering his third year as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He has had to come up with new starters in each of the past two seasons and in both cases delivered men who led their teams to the SEC championship (and both Blake Sims and Coker earned MVP in that game) and into the College Football Playoff, with Coker winning it.
Many believe the critical position is tailback, where there is only limited experience in Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris.
In any event, many positions likely will remain in competition through fall camp and perhaps even into the season, as was the case last year at quarterback when Coker finally won the job over Cooper Bateman a quarter of the way into the season.
Once again this year, Alabama eases into the rigors of spring football. Following the Friday practice to get things started, Bama players will join their University classmates in spring break. Players will return for the resumption of classes and the second practice of the spring 10 days later on March 21.
The normal pattern is practices on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a couple of Saturday scrimmages before the 15th and final practice, the A-Day Game.