Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide still have some questions entering their first scrimmage of fall camp.
Nick Saban and the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are one week into fall camp, and several spots on the depth chart remain a mystery three weeks away from the season opener vs. Virginia Tech.
As with most teams across the country, the opening week of practice has been full of ups and downs.
With the first scrimmage set for this weekend, it's time to assess the team's progress.
Several key contributors entered fall camp after having been limited by injury this offseason.
According to Marq Burnett of the Anniston Star, seniors such as receiver DeAndrew White, running back/H-back Jalston Fowler and receiver Kenny Bell have all gotten off to strong starts early in camp.
Meanwhile, corner John Fulton, who missed the spring rehabbing an injured toe, opened camp as the starting corner opposite Deion Belue.
Saban has to be pleased with their progress.
While players such as DeAndrew White, Jalston Fowler and John Fulton are happy to return to the field, the Tide has had a rash of players get hit with minor bumps and bruises.
According to Chris Walsh of BamaOnline (subscription required), a trio of projected starters—receiver Amari Cooper, running back T.J. Yeldon and corner Deion Belue—were slowed by various ailments.
The good news is that none of the injuries appear to be severe, and all three players have been able to continue practicing.
While none of these players are in jeopardy of losing their respective positions, this is a situation that Saban and his staff need to monitor closely.
With Deion Belue less than 100 percent and John Fulton working to get back into the mix at corner, the window of opportunity has opened for younger corners who are fighting to climb the depth chart.
Enter sophomore and converted wide receiver Cyrus Jones, who, with Fulton out, got a chance to work with the first team at corner in the spring. The 5’10”, 196-pound Jones is a natural athlete who appears to have made a smooth transition to the secondary, according to Ken Rogers of the Dothan Eagle.
With a wide-open depth chart at corner behind Fulton and Belue, Jones is making a strong case to find a permanent new home in the secondary.
Senior AJ McCarron is one of the country’s top passers, but the situation behind him remains largely unsettled.
Junior Blake Sims and redshirt freshman Alec Morris appear to be the main contenders for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Sims, who is the only other Tide signal-caller to appear in a college game, may get the nod because of his experience. Morris redshirted last season and appears more comfortable in the offense than the trio of true freshmen who are also competing for the job.
However, none of the quarterbacks behind McCarron have done enough to separate themselves from the pack.
On a roster loaded with talent and depth at nearly every position, linebacker is one spot where the Tide has an embarrassment of riches.
Despite starters returning at all four positions in Alabama’s 3-4 base scheme, sophomore Denzel Devall is battling to unseat junior Xzavier Dickson at an outside linebacker spot.
Saban experimented with playing Dickson at defensive end in the spring. Per Chris Walsh of BamaOnline (subscription required), he’s continued to do so in the beginning of fall camp, in part because of how Devall has progressed in his second season.
Devall, who appeared in 13 games last season, is primed to enjoy a breakthrough sophomore campaign.
As Don Kausler Jr. of AL.com noted, Alabama’s incoming freshmen class took a hit when defensive lineman Darius Paige was medically disqualified last week. However, the rest of the Tide’s 2013 recruiting class is taking in its first full week of practice on the college level.
While early enrollees such as tight end O.J. Howard and running back Derrick Henry have already shown flashes, a handful of their classmates are wasting little time getting adjusted to the college level.
On offense, receivers Raheem Falkins, Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart have each impressed early on, according to Travis Reier of BamaOnline (subscription required).
On defense, as Chris Walsh of BamaOnline notes (subscription required), freshmen defensive linemen A’Shawn Robinson, Dee Liner and Jonathan Allen have physically stood out among the newcomers.
Even though Alabama is loaded with talent and experience, do not be surprised to see a handful of true freshmen make significant contributions this fall.