Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide found answers to some of their biggest questions entering spring during Saturday's A-Day game.
Alabama fans finally got a sneak peak at what’s in store for a team hoping to become the first squad to repeat as national champions since Nebraska in 1995.
While Nick Saban has a small but proven circle of veterans who are capable of ensuring the teams stays hungry this season, it's no secret that the Crimson Tide will need several youngsters to step up and prove themselves on the biggest of stages.
For a team that has to replace five players that earned AP All-American recognition, the Crimson Tide are one of the rare powerhouses that have the ability to reload without much drop-off.
A handful of young stars offered a glimpse of the potential they possess during last weekend’s annual A-Day spring scrimmage.
Here are the top five surprises from the A-Day game.
One of the biggest question marks entering A-Day was the defense’s ability to generate a pass rush considering the heavy personnel losses in their front seven.
Pagan was one of the talented youngsters who stepped up and answered the challenge by notching four tackles—including two sacks that showed his tremendous athleticism for a player with an imposing 6’4”, 272-pound frame.
Another impressive part of Pagan’s performance was his ability to generate pressure from both the defensive end slot and inside at the nose tackle spot.
His strong showing should help the sophomore establish a presence in the Crimson Tide’s defensive line rotation this season.
Sims tossed a pair of 3rd quarter TD passes to help lead his team to victory.
Since Sims arrived at the Capstone out of high school, his talents have never been in question with regards to his ability to play quarterback at Alabama.
After coming out on the short end of a heated competition for the starting job last season with A.J. McCarron, Sims’ future in Tuscaloosa has been a subject of discussion since the conclusion of last season.
Considering that Sims entered Saturday’s spring game at less than 100 percent health, his performance (9-for-12, 135 yards and two touchdown passes) raised more than a few eyebrows.
Regardless of what happens in the future, Sims proved his toughness and his ability to lead this team if his number is called on this season.
If opponents would learn one thing from watching Alabama’s spring game, it's that the Crimson Tide are stacked with an embarrassment of riches in terms of having several young and freakishly talented players ready to break out this fall.
At the top of that list is Hubbard—who delivered a performance that more than validated the buzz surrounding him entering the spring.
The 6’6”, 248-pounder recorded seven tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks in a dominating effort that propelled the White team to a 24-15 victory over the Crimson squad—and earned him the Dwight Stephenson lineman of the game award.
For the 78,000-plus fans in attendance at Bryant-Denny Stadium for the spring game, most of them are breathing easier about replacing departed star Courtney Upshaw thanks to the show Hubbard put on.
Sunseri's fumble recovery turned into a scoop and score that sealed his team's victory.
Sunseri was all over the field on Saturday—and whether he lined up as a linebacker or at safety, he found his way to the ball enough to create several big plays for the defense.
In fact, he managed to create two second-half turnovers—a fumble recovery he took 21 yards for the game's final score of the day and a late interception off of McCarron—that sealed the White’s victory.
His performance highlighted his versatility and playmaking ability—and ensured that he will have a huge role wherever he lines up for the Crimson Tide this fall.
Another concern for Saban entering the spring was finding capable playmakers after losing nearly all of their skill weapons from last season’s title teams.
Enter Yeldon—one of the nation’s top prep running backs in the class of 2012—who enrolled early in Tuscaloosa and wasted little time in making an impression on Saban.
Yeldon accounted for 179 yards of total offense (91 yards receiving, 88 yards rushing) and managed to score once on the ground and once through the air.
His performance was enough to earn him the Dixie Howell most valuable player of the game award—and garner some high praise from a normally guarded Saban.
"T.J.'s kind of one of those guys who can do everything," Saban said to al.com’s Don Kausler, Jr. "He's a good runner. He's got some power, he's got some speed. He's a really good receiver. Hopefully he'll continue to mature and have a pretty significant role in helping our offense next year."