Following an offseason with arrests like All-American left tackle Cam Robinson, safety Hootie Jones and offensive guard Aphonso Taylor, the national champions returned to fall camp having to refocus. The Crimson Tide are looking for a quarterback, running back and trying to answer some questions across the board.
For yet another time, Bama looks for another quarterback. Cooper Bateman is the one most are looking towards to get the start against USC due to his experience, but others like Blake Barnett continue to challenge. This much is certain: in terms of true talent, Bama will have one of its more talented quarterbacks under Nick Saban. It's just a matter of who gets the start. Expect Bateman on Day 1.
According to Bama Mag, they tell us that running back might be the biggest question mark for Alabama going into the season. Bo Scarbrough has a ton of talent, but has also been injured plenty of times during his career. Damien Harris is another highly regarded running back much like Mark Ingram in the way they play the position. B.J. Emmons might fit into the rotation as well as a true freshman. Alabama will be going back to that 1-2 punch and a new rotation rather than having the No. 2 back move up like in past seasons.
All-American wide receiver Calvin Ridley returns for Alabama, who will without a doubt get the majority of the targets. Gehrig Dieter is a transfer from Bowling Green that the team is high on and is a big bodied redzone threat. Dieter started his career at SMU before transferring to Bowling Green. Tight end O.J. Howard returns at tight end and expects a bigger role in the offense following his big performance in the national championship game. All three are poised for big seasons for a new quarterback, but Howard will be the key in helping the new quarterback settle in.
Alabama also will have no problem working without Aphonso Taylor at guard if they do decide to move on from Taylor. Taylor had missed plenty of class this spring and got extremely overweight this spring. That didn't sit well with Saban. That leaves the offense with Robinson at left tackle, Ross Pierschbacher at center and Jonah Williams at right tackle as a true freshman most likely. The guard spots are still up for grabs, but there's some solid options available as well for Bama.
Alabama lost three defensive linemen last year to the draft and brings back Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Dalvin Tomlinson back to the mix. Bama won’t have the depth they did last year, but the talent level won't drop off too much. Allen was a problem for plenty of opposing offensive lines and has the chance to be "the guy" on that defensive line.
Reuben Foster moves from the weak side to the middle that will have him pick up the play calling duties for the Tide. Rashaan Evans will join Foster inside as well. Tim Williams, who was disruptive as a pass rusher for Bama, and Ryan Anderson will anchor the outside linebacker spots after being mostly backups last year. Both are 250+ linebackers that should add some size and strength on the otuside..
Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick take over at cornerback, which has really been a struggle at times under Saban and his defense that puts them in 1-on-1 situations a lot. Ronnie Harrison taking over at safety and Eddie Jackson will be back at the safety spot opposite him. Expect Bama’s secondary to be much improved with the talent coming back in addition to Jackson returning.
Everyone has Nov. 5 circled as Alabama visits LSU and that will certainly be one heck of a night in Death Valley. By that point, a lot of these questions for both sides will be answered, but where either team will be at that point is anyone's guess. Most likely, it's game that will decide the SEC West. Many predicted Alabama to win the West again, but a lot of people only did that due to Bama's current run over LSU rather than actual expectations. This is as uncertain as folks have been entering the year on Alabama as they've been in years.
An X-factor Alabama is JK Scott, who returns after a phenomenal season as punter and has the ability to change the field position for the Tide. The kicking game has been hit or miss for Alabama - being great one year and brutal another. The jury is still out on this year's kicking game, but expect Bama's punting game to control field position, which will really help with an inexperienced quarterback.
LSU vs. Alabama. Expect it to be for the SEC West. If it's not, it'll be a disappointment for both fans. The road to the SEC Title Game should run through Bama for LSU and that's something I'd imagine a lot of the players would relish after last year's defeat at the hands of the Tide.