Nick Saban will be monitoring a few positions closely when fall camp begins in August.
With fall camp less than a month away, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are readying for the challenge of trying to win its third consecutive national title.
Simply put, Alabama’s 2013 squad is loaded. The Tide’s passing attack could be the best in school history, thanks to the return of quarterback AJ McCarron and a deep and experienced complement of pass-catchers.
The defense returns eight starters from a group that led the nation in total defense.
However, that doesn’t mean Saban and his staff will not have areas of concern when fall practice begins.
At a school with a rich history of producing standout quarterbacks, McCarron enters his senior season with a chance to leave an unrivaled legacy.
It’s hard to envision McCarron improving on a 2012 campaign that saw him throw for 30 touchdowns and complete more than 67-percent of his passes
Considering that Alabama may have its most talented collection of skill players since he’s been on campus, McCarron could put up video game numbers if he gets more opportunities to air it out.
Regardless, his presence gives Saban a trusted and reliable leader at the most important position on the field.
While Tide fans are giddy about having McCarron back for his final season, the same can't be said for the situation behind him.
There could be some nervous energy from Crimson-clad faithful if McCarron were to miss any significant snaps.
Junior Blake Sims and a quartet of freshmen—Cooper Batemen, Luke Del Rio, Parker McLeod and Alec Morris—are battling for the right to be McCarron’s backup. However, none of the contenders performed well enough in the spring to inspire a ton of confidence from the coaching staff or the fans.
Sims, who is a dual-threat field general, is the favorite due to experience. However, this is one area that will carry a high level of intrigue when camp begins.
Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon and sophomore receiver Amari Cooper enter 2013 already established among the nation’s best at their respective positions.
Plus, there are plenty of reinforcements at both positions.
Sophomore Kenyan Drake and four talented true freshmen are chomping at the bit to become the Tide’s newest rushing apprentice behind Yeldon.
The receiver unit is the deepest and most talented collection of pass-catchers that Saban has fielded since he’s been at Alabama.
Add promising true freshman tight end O.J. Howard to this unit, and it's clear that offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will have no shortage of weapons at his disposal.
New offensive line coach Mario Cristobal will be entrusted with finding replacements for three departed All-Americans up front.
However, Alabama has a handful of talented linemen who have patiently waited for their chance to get on the field.
Veteran backups such as guard Arie Kouandjio, center Ryan Kelly and tackle Austin Shepherd are seasoned players capable of stepping in and performing at a high level.
Despite that, Cristobal will have his hands full in molding a front wall that ensures there will not be a significant dropoff.
Despite the loss of three-year starter Robert Lester, Alabama’s group of safeties may still be the nation’s best.
Juniors Vinnie Sunseri and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are established playmakers on the last line of defense.
Senior backups Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams are reliable veterans who provide quality depth.
However, the player that Tide fans are most anxious to see is sophomore Landon Collins.
He was one of the Tide’s biggest standouts in the spring, and the former 5-star recruit looks to be headed for a breakout season.
While the outlook at safety is bright, the corner position remains a question mark heading into fall camp.
If veteran John Fulton can show that he is 100-percent healthy, the Tide would have a strong option to pair with fellow senior Deion Belue.
Rising sophomore Geno Smith came on strong toward the end of last season, and he figures to have a prominent role either as a backup or as the team’s top option in nickel packages.
However, depth appears to be the primary concern. Sophomores Bradley Sylve, Jabriel Washington and Cyrus Jones are largely unproven at corner, with Jones having seen time at receiver last season.
True freshmen such as Maurice Smith, Jonathan Cook and Eddie Jackson will get long looks when camp begins.
Solidifying the rotation at corner will be one of fall camp’s biggest storylines.
If there’s one position that exemplifies Alabama’s success on the recruiting trail, it’s linebacker.
The Tide return starters at all four linebacker positions in their 3-4 scheme, but a glimpse at the talent waiting in the wings gives a clear picture to the embarrassment of riches at Saban’s disposal.
Underclassmen and former highly touted recruits such as Ryan Anderson, Denzel Devall, Dillon Lee and Reggie Ragland are battling to earn a spot in the rotation when fall camp begins.
Add 5-star incoming freshmen Reuben Foster and Jonathan Allen to the mix, and it almost becomes unfair.
Saban’s biggest problem may come in sorting out how to get some of these guys on the field, but that is clearly a rich man’s problem.