The Alabama Crimson Tide is one of the few teams that have very little worries entering spring practice. With only a couple of position battles to focus on and terrifying depth across the board, Nick Saban and his troops will treat spring practice as a tune-up to begin the run for a third straight national championship.
But while the team as a whole may not have many question marks to worry about, overwhelming talent creates competition, and the spring is a chance for guys to slide up the depth chart. Certain players you may not be giving the time of day at the moment can impress you in a month or two and earn significant reps during the regular season,
Alabama has guys that will be looking to earn the respect of the coaching staff and put themselves in a better position to succeed.
Here are some of those players that will improve their depth chart ranking when the 2013 spring practice arrives.
One of the key position battles to pay attention to this spring is at running back. It's not that Alabama doesn't have any proven guys to step up to the plate; it is that the Tide has multiple guys that could start for the majority of college football teams out there.
From T.J. Yeldon, to Kenyan Drake all the way down to 2013 recruit Derrick Henry, running backs will be fighting for position.
One of the names that very few are paying attention to is Dee Hart. A runner who can't seem to avoid the injury bug will finally get another chance to make an impact on the coaching staff, and should see plenty of chances to move up the pecking order.
Hart is a small runner at 5'9", 190 pounds, but he runs much bigger than he really is, and his change of direction makes him difficult to tackle. He is shifty in the open field and has impressive field vision to break off big runs. He is also capable of being valuable in the passing game, as he even played on special teams for a while last year due to his sure hands.
There is a lot of value with Hart, and he brings a lot of different things to the table. With his playmaking ability and value in the receiving department, Hart will go from the guy few are talking about to somebody who should see increased playing time.
Alabama has talent at the cornerback position, but it is thin when it comes to experience, and the guys who did play were shaky at times throughout the year. With the best player at the position in Dee Milliner leaving for the next level and with Deion Belue having his moments, there are spots open in the secondary for guys to make an impact and move up on the depth chart.
John Fulton is one of a few true corners on this Alabama roster, and he is easily the most experienced. With this being his last season on campus, he will be eager to land a full-time starting position and should have few issues in making a case for a starting spot.
He has the size you like to see at the corner position at 6'1", can hold his own in man coverage, as he battles with the receiver at the line of scrimmage and has quick feet to stay with his man downfield. He is a competitive player, and the experience of playing in 23 games the last two years should pay off as he enters his senior year.
Despite inconsistent play from Belue, he will remain the starter on one side of the field. However, that other spot remains vacant for a player such as Fulton to fill.
Remember Cyrus Jones?
He was only one of the top prospects of the 2012 recruiting class and was supposed to make a big splash a season ago. Instead, he finished the year riding the bench and picked up only four receptions for 51 yards in mop up duty against subpar opponents.
Jones is easily one of the better athletes on this Alabama roster and can help in a big way. It is really a matter of where the coaching staff sees fit. With the receiver position stuck on overload, Jones would absolutely have to shine bright like a diamond in camp to make any type of progress on the offensive side of the ball.
However, this takes us back to the cornerback position, and there could be some playing time for Jones on defense. This is somebody who played both ways in high school, and his instincts and ball skills makes him a valuable option to learn to play cornerback full-time. This would of course take time for Jones to learn to play with any type of consistency, but he is a smooth athlete who could help in an area of need.
Whether Jones tries to chip away on offense, or if he switches to defense, I think everybody can agree he is way too gifted to remain on the bench for a second season.
It looks like I will continue to beat up the secondary of Alabama, as it is a unit worth paying attention to early on with the competition running high. The cornerback position has question marks, but safety has two open spots and a handful of guys battling for position.
As of right now it looks like HaHa Clinton-Dix will lock down one of the spots, but that leaves Landon Collins, Jarrick Williams, Nick Perry and Vinnie Sunseri all competing for the other opening. Sunseri and Perry saw significant playing time last year and have the experience edge over a guy like Collins. However, the true-sophomore has the upside and overall ability to put himself in the conversation as a full-time starter.
A top recruit in the 2012 recruiting class, Collins came off the bench in all 13 games and saw a lot of his time on special teams. But as a defensive back, he provides that physicality to instill fear into defenses, and he also has the ball skills and instincts to make plays in pass coverage and run support. Sunseri was able to hold his own last year, but was an issue in pass coverage and didn't cover nearly the same amount of ground that Collins is capable of covering.
Collins was able to get his feet wet last year; now it is time for the coaching staff to put him in the lineup and let him go to work.
No. Cooper Bateman is not going to jump A.J. McCarron for the starting quarterback position. In fact, Alabama has yet to even see a true-freshman quarterback take a snap with Nick Saban as head coach of the Crimson Tide.
However, there are many quarterbacks on the roster, and there is no true No. 2 quarterback behind the superstar signal-caller if the offense needs another guy to lead the team. Naturally a kid coming fresh out of high school would be near the end of the depth chart, but Bateman has a real shot to earn the backup role beginning in the spring.
Already enrolled on campus, Bateman has everything you look for in a legitimate BCS conference quarterback. Much more mobile than the current Alabama quarterback, the 4-star recruit also has a strong arm, and he sees the field surprisingly well. Another thing that has won him cool points with scouts is his ability to lead his team and his poise in the pocket.
Quarterback is really the last position Crimson Tide fans should worry about, and the best thing would be to redshirt Bateman so he has four years of eligibility remaining. However, I expect him to make a strong push for the backup position and remain ready just in case he needs to help save the day at some point in the upcoming season.