Despite losing some of its best players off the 2012 team, Nick Saban and Alabama should once again be loaded for another title run in 2013.
Before the Alabama football team takes the field this fall with a potential three-peat in their sights, this spring will provide some intense jockeying for position on the depth chart.
A small, but invaluable group of seniors, have departed the Capstone with three national title rings. That plus the loss of a talented trio of juniors to the NFL means Nick Saban and his staff will still comb through a talented roster in search of the next wave of contributors for the 2013 squad.
Quarterback AJ McCarron’s return insures the Crimson Tide offense the luxury of being guided by a fifth-year senior with a 25-2 career record and a pair of crystal footballs on his resume.
Running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper terrorized the SEC as true freshmen, and that duo of skill players returns for an encore.
The defense is boosted by the return of linebackers C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard, but they must fill holes on the defensive line and replace All-American corner Dee Milliner.
With holes on both lines of scrimmage, Saban is bound to tinker with his rotations (and even consider position switches) in an effort to get the best players on the field.
Which positions will the Tide see the potential for new faces to emerge in the spring, and which young players will be counted on to play a major role in 2013?
Find out the answers to those questions and more as I project the Tide’s 2-deep depth chart for the upcoming season.
Aside from losing Eddie Lacy to the NFL, the skill positions return a majority of their major contributors from last season.
McCarron, Yeldon and Cooper are as good of a trio you can find at their respective positions in the country.
The main questions on offense will hinge on replacing three starters off the nation’s best offensive line. Right guard Anthony Steen and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio will reprise their roles from last season.
Ryan Kelly—one of four Tide players to make the 2012 Freshmen All-SEC team—will slide into the center spot to replace Barrett Jones. Arie Kouandijo (brother of Cyrus), and Chad Lindsay will likely battle for Chance Warmack’s vacant spot at left guard.
Incoming JUCO transfer Leon Brown and Austin Shepherd are candidates to fill D.J. Fluker’s right tackle spot.
Tight end and H-back are also wildcards, with a host of unproven and young options available—plus 5-star early enrollee freshman O.J. Howard entering the mix.
QB – AJ McCarron, Senior – Blake Sims, Sophomore
RB – T.J. Yeldon, Sophomore – Kenyan Drake, Sophomore
TE – Brian Vogler, Sophomore – O.J. Howard, Freshman
H-Back – Kurt Freitag, Freshman – Jalston Fowler, Senior
WR (X) – Amari Cooper, Sophomore – DeAndrew White, Junior
WR (Z) – Kevin Norwood, Senior – Kenny Bell, Senior
WR (H) – Christion Jones, Junior – Chris Black, Freshman
RT – Leon Brown, Junior – Austin Shepherd, Junior
RG – Anthony Steen, Senior – Arie Kouandjio, Junior
C – Ryan Kelly, Sophomore – Isaac Luatua, Freshman
LG – Chad Lindsay, Junior – Grant Hill, Freshman
LT – Cyrus Kouandjio, Junior – Kellen Williams, Senior
With the return of C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard, the linebacker unit will represent the strength of a defense that topped the country in scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense in 2012.
Filling the void left by Jesse Williams in the middle of the defensive line, as well as valuable defensive ends Damion Square and Quinton Dial will also be a task for Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
A talented crop of young defensive linemen—led by rising junior Jeoffrey Pagan—have gained valuable experience as backups in 2012.
Vinnie Sunseri, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins should form a dynamic safety combination, while corners John Fulton and Deion Belue will likely begin the season atop the depth chart at corner.
Young defensive backs such as Bradley Sylve, Geno Smith and Jabriel Washington will have to mature fast enough to get into the rotation at corner to build depth.
Considering his strong finish to the 2012 season, Smith is a candidate to usurp a starting role from Fulton or Belue.
Add another infusion of talented recruits ready to make a grand entrance into the college level, and the Tide should once again field one of the nation’s best defenses in 2013.
DE – Ed Stinson, Senior – D.J. Pettway, Sophomore
NG – Brandon Ivory, Junior – Darren Lake, Sophomore
DE – Jeoffrey Pagan, Junior – LaMichael Fanning, Sophomore
SAM OLB – Adrian Hubbard, Junior – Dillon Lee, Sophomore
MIKE ILB – Trey DePriest, Junior – Reggie Ragland, Sophomore
WILL ILB – C.J. Mosley, Senior – Tana Patrick, Senior
JACK OLB – Xzavier Dickson, Junior – Denzel Devall, Sophomore
CB – Geno Smith, Sophomore – Jabriel Washington, Sophomore
SS – Vinnie Sunseri, Junior – Landon Collins, Sophomore
FS – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – Junior – Nick Perry, Senior
CB – John Fulton, Senior – Bradley Sylve, Sophomore
Nickel – Deion Belue – Landon Collins, Sophomore
Alabama loses reliable placekicker Jeremy Shelley and veteran long-snapper Carson Tinker, but a pair of acclaimed freshmen are waiting in the wings to fill the Tide’s biggest holes on its special teams units.
Redshirt freshman Adam Griffith—rated as the top kicker in the 2012 class by 247 Sports—will get a chance to beat out senior Cade Foster for the right to replace Shelley.
Incoming recruit Cole Mazza—rated as the top long-snapper in the country by 247 Sports—will arrive in the summer and join the battle with senior MK Taylor to take over Tinker’s role.
The return units should look similar to last season’s setup.
Christion Jones will likely reprise his role as the team’s starting punt returner, and Cyrus Jones will likely join him to form the Tide’s kickoff return tandem.
PK – Adam Griffith, Freshman – Cade Foster, Senior
KO – Cade Foster, Senior – Adam Griffith, Freshman
HOLD – A.J. McCarron, Senior – Vinnie Sunseri, Junior
P – Cody Mandell, Senior – Adam Griffith, Freshman
SN – MK Taylor, Senior – Cole Mazza, Freshman
PR – Christion Jones, Junior – Cyrus Jones, Sophomore
KR –Christion Jones, Junior – Cyrus Jones, Sophomore or Kevin Norwood, Senior