Alabama is fully underway with spring practice, as they prepare for the spring game that takes place on April 14th. Every time these practices are set to take place, we should always be looking for certain things—players who need to step up, or things for the team to improve on from last season.
The Crimson Tide, of course, are the defending national champions, but that doesn't mean this team doesn't have their fair share of flaws. Only five starters on the defensive side of the ball are returning, and four key members of the offense are no longer on the roster. That means that some players have to step up and help fill some of these holes on the depth chart.
Here are five players that you should be paying attention to this spring.
There's no question that the linebacker position is the key focus on this team. Losing players like Don'ta Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are not easy replacements.
It's even harder when junior linebacker C.J. Mosley has a dislocated hip, and his status is really up in the air. Head coach Nick Saban says he's fine, but actually seeing him on the field and how he responds will really answer that question.
It's also going to take time to adjust without key members of last year's squad heading to the next level. Mosely is the new leader of this defense, and he'll have to be healthy and extremely productive for Saban and company.
Running back has been a very strong position for the Crimson Tide over the years, but heading into the spring it's kind of a mess. Trent Richardson is preparing for the NFL draft, and Eddie Lacy will miss the entire spring practice with a turf toe injury.
Enter Dee Hart who was a 4-star recruit in the 2011 class. He was good enough to play his true freshman year, before suffering a knee injury that kept him on the sidelines the whole season. Hart is a very quick back, who will make you miss in the open field. He'll be a fantastic change of pace runner next to Lacy and his physical style of running.
Hart has the chance to really turn some heads this spring, keep an eye out for him.
No, Alabama does not have a quarterback controversy. We all know McCarron is the starter for this team heading into the regular season regardless of what happens. (Unless injury of course)
But it's going to be very interesting to see which quarterback we're going to see this year. Is it the quarterback that's only allowed to throw the ball 20 something passes, or will the coaching staff take the handcuffs off like they did against LSU, and allow him to sling it 34 times?
McCarron really grew as the season went along, and it appears that the Crimson Tide really do have a legitimate quarterback leading their team. Question is, just how much control will he be given of the offense?
Kickers are never important until the game is decided on their leg. Alabama learned this the hard way as it cost them an undefeated season, and nearly a spot in the BCS National Championship.
Jeremy Shelley enters the spring as the likely starter once again, but missing two extra points and six field goals is clearly unacceptable. If he can't get his act together, Cade Foster will have to step in, but he missed seven field goals last season. If neither one of them can make kicks, the last option would be true freshman Adam Griffith.
Bottom line is that somebody has to step it up for the defending national champions.
Along with linebacker, the secondary will also look different as Alabama is trying to replace Mark Barron, DeQuan Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick. That leaves holes in the secondary, and a lot of talented players competing for limited starting spots.
At one of the cornerback spots, John Fulton will have a chance to redeem himself from last season. He was a great special teams player, but he had a chance to play full-time at cornerback before his spot was stolen by Dee Millner.
Fulton was a top recruit in the 2010 class, has great size at 6'0", 180 pounds, and is very solid at shutting down the receiver. Problem is the competition is thick and he'll have to step it up if he wants to play on the defensive side of the ball.