Fresh off a national championship and winners of three of the last four BCS titles, expectations couldn't be higher for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide will give the fans their first taste of the 2013 season with the program's annual A-Day spring game on Saturday, April 20 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Every year, Alabama sends its top players to the NFL, and every year, Nick Saban has players ready to step into the roster spot they left behind. As usual, Saban has brought in a stellar class of new recruits, and 'Bama will be one of the heavy favorites to win the BCS title once again in 2013.
Quarterback A.J. McCarron will be back to lead the offense, and superstar T.J. Yeldon will be ready to take over for Eddie Lacy as the team's featured back.
Linebackers C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard decided to stay in school for another year, and you can be sure Alabama's defense will be one of the top-ranked—if not the best—defenses in the college football this upcoming season.
The spring game will give fans their first look at what Saban's 2013 team will look like. Here's what you need to know about the big event.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL
When: Saturday, April 20, at 3:00 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN 2
Position Battle To Watch: Offensive Line
There is more than one spot up for grabs on Alabama's offensive line.
With Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker all headed to the NFL—likely as first- or second-round picks—there's some fierce competition for the three vacant spots that opened up with their departure.
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Kelly will likely take over for Jones as the team's center, per AL.com's Don Kausler, Jr.:
The apprenticeship is over. When Alabama kicks off spring football practice on Saturday, Ryan Kelly is likely to start out as the first-team center. He’s had two seasons to prepare. He played on the scout team in 2011 while redshirting as a freshman. He backed up fifth-year senior Barrett Jones last season.
The other two spots, however, haven't yet been decided.
Arie Kouandjio will compete with Kellen Williams to decide which of them starts at left guard, though it appears Kouandjio has the edge in this battle (h/t Kausler, Jr.).
Austin Shepherd and Leon Brown will be competing for the chance to start at right tackle.
Offensive linemen don't get the plaudits of skilled players like running backs, quarterbacks or receivers, but if the line doesn't play well, none of the other players will have a chance to shine.
The winners of these two battles will have a significant impact on how well the offense performs in 2013.
Area In Need of Most Improvement: Secondary Play
With the departure of Dee Milliner and Robert Lester, the team's defensive secondary took a big hit this past offseason.
Of all the teams in the conference, Texas A&M has the best chance to defeat Alabama as the SEC champs in 2013.
Last year, Johnny Manziel had a field day against the secondary of the Crimson Tide, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns and nary an interception.
He did this against Milliner and Lester, and with both starters headed to the NFL Alabama has a big project to replace them.
Veterans Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will likely enter the season as the two starting safeties.
Senior John Fulton and Deion Belue will be called upon to handle the starting cornerback duties, but there are questions surrounding them both.
Fulton has not been able to practice this spring, due to a lingering toe injury. Belue—a JUCO transfer of a year ago—struggled at times last year and will need to become more consistent in 2013.
This secondary doesn't lack talent, but the players must come together and play well as a unit. If not, Alabama could be in for a tough loss or two in 2013.
What To Expect in 2013
The expectation for Alabama fans is always a national title, and this year isn't any different.
The team's offense should pick up right where it left off last year, as one of the top scoring teams in the nation.
If 'Bama's defense can get after the quarterback and minimize big plays in the passing game, it should be a dominant unit once again.
With a relatively easy schedule, Alabama has an excellent chance to finish the season undefeated. The team's biggest games will be its road game at Texas A&M and a home game against LSU—always an entertaining battle.
Alabama should contend for another BCS title this upcoming season, and anything less will be considered a bitter disappointment.
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