Former Alabama Coach Mike Shula planned to start spring practice in late February, allow The University's spring break to fall in the middle of drills, and conclude with the A-Day Game on March 31.
When Nick Saban took over as head coach, he said he expected to push spring practice back as far as possible. And, he said, he recognized the advantages and disadvantages of when the annual rite is held. He pointed out that by having the practice early, any injured players would have a little more time to recuperate. That's also part of the advantage of having spring practice divided by spring break, although the tradeoff there is that players frequently lose a little conditioning during the break.
Saban said that he preferred to have a later spring practice in order to give players more time in the off-season for strength and conditioning.
We still don't have all the details of spring practice, but Saban did announce this week that the A-Day Game will be April 21. That is the final Saturday of the spring semester prior to Dead Week, the week when no tests are given as students prepare for final examinations. It seemed unlikely that spring football practice would extend into Dead Week.
A team has 30 days in which to get in its 15 practice days of spring football. Alabama players (and other students) will return from spring break on March 19, which fits neatly into Saban's plan to have spring practice as late as possible.
A team ordinarily has three or four practices per week. Rules limit the number of practices with more than half the session involving full speed, full gear, 11-on-11 scrimmage work. There are three scrimmages permitted, including the spring game.
Historically, Alabama scrimmages have been open to the public, but with a new staff putting in new things, it is possible that the only practice open this spring will be the A-Day Game.
This is certainly no "reloading" process. After a 6-7 season, the Crimson Tide needs rebuilding.
Alabama returns nine starters on offense, all but tailback and fullback. It is not known if Saban's offense will call for a fullback.
It is expected that the defensive alignment will be changed. Bama's base defense for many years has been a 4-3 (four linemen and three linebackers), but last year it was more often a 3-3 (three linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs). Saban's defense of choice is the 3-4. Alabama does not have a large stockpile of linebackers, but the Tide does have some defensive backs who likely could shift to an outside linebacker position.
Alabama returns starters at two defensive end spots, middle linebacker, safety, and one cornerback.
Saban has not announced assignments of his coaching staff, but it is believed that Joe Pendry will be the offensive coordinator and Kevin Steele the defensive coordinator.
Other offensive coaches are expected to include Major Applewhite (quarterbacks), Burton Burns (running backs), and Ron Middleton (tight ends and special teams). Steve Marshall was a short-time member of the coaching staff, having recently left the Tide to return to NFL coaching with the Cleveland Browns. His replacement, who is expected to be an offensive line coach, has not been announced.
Other defensive coaches are expected to be Lance Thompson (line or linebackers), Bo Davis (line) and Kirby Smart (secondary).