Alabama Spring Game 2013: Biggest Positional Battles in Tuscaloosa
Alabama's 2013 spring game is just around the corner and Tuscaloosa is buzzing like Brent Musburger in the BCS National Championship Game.
The Crimson Tide go for their fourth national championship in five years this season and, as always, Nick Saban and company are tasked with filling the holes after some key players departed.
Of course, when you land the No. 1 recruiting class three years in a row (per 247Sports.com), that job is just a wee bit easier.
Here's a look at the top positional battles to watch for during Alabama's 2013 spring game, complete with broadcast information.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
When: Saturday, April 20 at 3 p.m. ET
Guard Chance Warmack, center Barrett Jones and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker are all headed to the NFL, opening up several key spots on the offensive line.
Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com noted on Thursday that Arie Kouandjio appears to be the favorite to replace Warmack at guard and Austin Shepard looks to be the front-runner at right tackle. The expected starter at left tackle, Cyrus Kouandjio, was called "the Tide's next star lineman" by Kausler. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Kelly will likely succeed Jones at center.
Shepard's spot at right tackle appears to be the most uncertain, according to Kausler. Junior college transfer Leon Brown figures to hand Shepard some heavy competition on the line.
As everybody knows, winning the battle in the trenches goes a long way in bringing about success in the SEC.
Nose guard Jesse Williams is headed to the NFL, and two more regulars from last season won't be with the Crimson Tide in 2013-14.
According to Kausler, Brandon Ivory—the backup to Williams last year—will likely take his spot at nose guard, but sophomore Darren Lake will be a worthy challenger. Lake earned some playing time as a freshman with the Crimson Tide last season.
Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan appears to have one of the end spots locked up. Kausler called him a potential "rising star."
Defensive ends Dalvin Tomlinson and LaMichael Fanning will battle it out for the other end spot. Fanning played in eight games last season, totaling four tackles.
With star cornerback Dee Milliner and safety Robert Lester headed to the NFL, Alabama needs to plug up a secondary that was gashed by Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M last season.
Starters Deion Belue and Geno Smith return at cornerback for the Crimson Tide, but the absence of John Fulton (toe injury) has Saban searching for depth, including at the "star" and "money" positions (when Alabama uses five and six defensive backs), according to the Prattville Progress.
Who will grab the second cornerback spot opposite likely starter Deion Belue?
Vinnie Sunseri and HaHa Clinton-Dix are the likely starting safeties for the 2013-14 campaign, but the Crimson Tide have some depth (2012 co-starter Nick Perry, sophomore Landon Collins, junior Jarrick Williams) to push both for playing time. Collins in particular could steal some snaps.
There is talent in the secondary—particularly at safety—both the results have not been there so far for the Crimson Tide. Quarterback A.J. McCarron threw a combined nine touchdown passes in two scrimmages this spring, per the Prattville Progress report.
Saban noted, via the report, "Deion Belue has had a really good spring. Geno (Smith) has made progress, but he needs to continue to improve."
Jabriel Washington and Bradley Sylve round out the group.
The secondary is the unit I'm going to be watching the most on Saturday.
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