Alabama Football: 5 Biggest Question Marks of Training Camp
Alabama is coming off its second national championship in three years, but that does not mean everything is wonderful in Tuscaloosa. Much like every team in college football, the Crimson Tide still have questions that must be answered before the regular season begins.
With fall camp fully underway, Nick Saban and company must work together to figure out the weaknesses of this football team and find solutions to fix them. Alabama only returns 12 starters, so there are many players that need to be replaced before the season actually kicks off.
Here are the five questions that the Alabama Crimson Tide must answer as the regular season is rapidly approaching.
How Will the Backfield Split Carries?
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Let's be honest, Alabama does have some concerns, but this team is much better off than most in the country.
While everybody is giving the LSU Tigers the title of having the best backfield, the Crimson Tide have their fair share of great runners as well.
Eddie Lacy will be the workhorse, replacing Trent Richardson, as he has rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in backup duty the last two seasons. Although he has suffered a few injuries along the way, he should be ready to go this season.
Dee Hart is a speedster, who missed all of the 2011 season with a knee injury. But now that he is healthy, the former 4-star recruit has a chance to earn plenty of carries. Jalston Fowler returns for his third season after averaging seven yards a touch the first two years. And, of course, there's true freshman T.J. Yeldon, who has huge playmaking ability and was the star during the spring game.
Much like the Tigers, Alabama has four quality backs as well. How do you split up the touches? Is there a chance Yeldon is redshirted because of the amount of depth at the position? It is unlikely, but there is a possibility.
What Will the Secondary Look Like?
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Alabama had the second-best defense in the country last season, but it will have to reload to repeat last year's efforts. Safety Robert Lester and cornerback Dee Milliner are the only two players returning in the secondary that started a single game last season. Former All-Americans Mark Barron, DeQuan Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick are no longer on the roster.
Sophomore safety Vinnie Sunseri, who has quickly built a reputation of being a hard hitter, will likely become the starter at the other safety spot. Junior John Fulton and junior college transfer Deion Belue will continue to battle for the other cornerback spot opposite of Milliner. "HaHa" Clinton-Dix is another player who will compete for playing time as well.
The talent in the secondary is there, but experience is a serious issue with only a couple of weeks before the season starts.
Who Will Step Up at Wide Receiver?
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While the running game looks sharp, the wide receiver position doesn't exactly have many noticeable names. In fact, the top four receivers from a year ago are no longer on the roster.
Kenny Bell will likely be the go-to receiver, as he had the most catches last season of anyone returning. He also has serious speed, averaging 15 yards a reception last year.
Kevin Norwood really shined in the national championship game, but he hasn't been consistent throughout his first two years at Alabama.
Senior tight end Michael Williams could be ready for a big year after catching 16 passes last season.
Other than those three players, there really isn't much experience at the receiver position to feel comfortable if you are a Crimson Tide fan. Although, the good news is that a total of 17 players had at least one reception during the spring game. We just need to see some of these unknown players step it up when it actually counts.
Which AJ McCarron Will Show Up?
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Many would like to know who the backup quarterback would be if McCarron, for whatever reason, is not able to play a certain week. The real question is, what starting quarterback is Alabama going to get this year?
McCarron really took a while to get going last season, throwing for over 200 yards only five times in the first 12 games. He was careful with the football all season long, but was more of a game manager, who the coaching staff obviously didn't trust to win football games.
But then, in the national championship game, against the top defense in the country, McCarron threw the ball 34 times for 234 yards, completing nearly 68 percent of his passes.
Where did that come from? Will that performance carry over in 2012? Will the coaching staff finally take the handcuffs off of the junior quarterback?
If McCarron can duplicate the championship performance for an entire season, this is a team that will compete for its third title in four years.
Special Teams Needs to Become Special
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This is more of a statement than a question, but the special teams must improve, no question about it. Alabama returns both kickers from a year ago, but I'm not sure that is necessarily a good thing.
Combined, both Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster made only 64 percent of their kicks, which was eighth in the SEC. The 2-of-6 performance in the regular season game against LSU not only cost them an undefeated season, but it almost prevented the Crimson Tide from even making it to the big game.
One of those kickers must improve his accuracy, or Alabama may not be so lucky this time around.
Punter Cody Mandell could also use some improvement after averaging less than 40 yards an attempt.