Breaking Down Alabama's Top Position Battles This Spring
The Alabama Crimson Tide is in the middle of spring practices, and the team is looking to fill voids left by key contributors from last season.
But for some returning players, the rise to the top of the depth chart will be a grueling task.
With a new roster for 2013, Alabama fans should pay close attention to several positions that will be up for grabs during the spring.
The A-Day game, Alabama’s annual spring scrimmage, will see starters emerge from the intense position battles that are occurring right now.
These are some of the most intriguing battles that will take place this spring.
John Fulton brings down Mike Evans
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Dee Milliner is destined to be a first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft, but his absence in Alabama’s secondary will be immense.
Without Milliner, Alabama does not have another true shutdown cornerback on its roster.
Senior Deion Belue started every game last season, but was far from extraordinary. He only pulled in two interceptions and broke up a meager seven passes.
Belue stands a strong chance of starting in 2013, with so much experience under his belt, but his lack of field presence last season should force him to earn a starting job for the fall.
Sophomore Geno Smith—no, not West Virginia’s Geno Smith—made a case for himself in his freshman season. He emerged as the No. 3 cornerback and made the most of his time on the field.
He’s a young player who can grow into a star for the remainder of his career at Alabama. He will be pushing Belue for the title of No. 1 cornerback for the Tide.
Saban has seen the need for competition at corner and has brought a few offensive players over to the defensive side of the ball. Receivers Christion Jones and Cyrus Jones and running back Dee Hart have all been practicing with the secondary since spring practices have started, according to The Crimson White.
They aren’t placed over there to confuse reporters; they’re there for a reason.
Another senior who saw the field a lot last season was John Fulton. Fulton played in 12 games and broke up five passes. But a nagging toe injury has limited him to the sideline this spring.
His presence in the program will linger in the back of Belue and Smith’s mind as they fight for two starting jobs this spring.
Kenyan Drake tries to stay in-bounds against Florida Atlantic.
Michael Chang/Getty Images
Alabama has been known for having a dominant running game since Nick Saban’s arrival to Tuscaloosa. However, he has always had a combination of backs to penetrate defenses.
Starter Eddie Lacy is leaving the Capstone for the NFL Draft, and sophomore standout T.J. Yeldon will jump into the No. 1 spot.
The question is who will step up and solidify themselves as the second punch in Alabama’s punishing running game. There are several guys in the running for the No. 2 spot.
Junior Jalston Fowler only played in two games last season before injuring his knee against Western Kentucky. Before the injury, Fowler, Lacy and Yeldon were an unstoppable trio.
This spring, Fowler has practiced wearing a no-contact black jersey, according to the Crimson White, but he will be in the running to spell Yeldon in 2013.
Another experienced back looking to move up the depth chart is sophomore Kenyan Drake. However, Drake saw most, if not all of his playing time in the second half of blowout games.
He did make the most out of his time nonetheless, accumulating 281 yards and five touchdowns. His speed and athleticism will benefit him, as he seeks offensive opportunities in the first half instead of cleanup duty.
Out of all the running backs on campus this spring (aside from Yeldon) the most fascinating back is freshman Derrick Henry. At 6’3” and 243 pounds, Henry is a mammoth athlete.
Senior linebacker C.J. Mosley said Henry is a bigger version of former Alabama star Trent Richardson, according to al.com’s Andrew Gribble. Yeldon had a fantastic spring as a freshman, so it’s not out of the question for Henry.
The competition at running back will be the most anticipated position battle of the spring.