Alabama Football: Nick Saban's Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice
After the conclusion of Alabama’s spring practice, Crimson Tide fans have a better picture on some of the areas that could be of concern for Nick Saban and his staff leading up to fall camp.
While issues such as finding a new starting quarterback, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin getting acclimated with his new surroundings and fighting off complacency have driven the headlines for the Tide’s offseason, a handful of concerns remain for a team coming off an 11-2 season.
Some holes caused by graduation or early departures to the NFL are still prevalent, while depth at other positions are areas that need further development.
What are the most pressing issues that Saban will be planning heavily to solve in the fall?
Following the loss of sophomore Eddie Jackson to a torn ACL, one of biggest questions entering the A-Day game was the situation at cornerback.
Thanks to a smothering pass rush and a group of signal callers who were mostly inaccurate, Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones were largely untested. Stud freshman Tony Brown shook off giving up an early big play to record an interception and another pair of pass breakups.
While that trio’s play was encouraging, there’s no way of knowing whether it was due to their improvement or because the Tide’s offense struggled.
Saban and his staff will have to continue to work on developing a strong rotation at that spot before the season-opener against West Virginia on Aug. 30.
Most programs would shudder at the thought of starting a true freshman at left tackle. That could potentially be the case for Alabama this fall.
However, Cameron Robinson is not exactly your average true freshman. The former 5-star recruit and consensus top left tackle in the 2014 class checks in with an NFL-type frame at 6’7”, 335 pounds.
Even with that type of physical composition and athleticism, as the spring game showed, Robinson is still going through the normal transition period that seemingly all freshmen go through.
As noted by BamaOnline’s Marc Torrence, Saban commented on Robinson’s progress following the A-Day game.
I think Cam is going to be a work in progress. He’s a very talented guy, and he made some mistakes today. For example, we threw a screen, he blocked the wrong guy, and because he blocked the wrong guy, the screen got intercepted and run back for a touchdown. But I think all those things are learning opportunities. Everyone talks about experience, but how do you get experience? You get experience by making mistakes. We need for him to learn from those mistakes, which he will, and he’ll develop and improve.
While Robinson and Brandon Greene clearly aren’t lacking in ability, their inexperience is reason enough to give Saban and his staff added reason to closely monitor their progress leading up to the season.
Considering the rough ending to the 2013 season, Tide fans don’t need any reminders about how important special teams—particularly the kicking game—can be in close games.
With Adam Griffith missing two of his three field-goal attempts and an extra point in the spring game, their fears are unlikely to subside anytime soon.
Unless true freshman JK Scott can beat Griffith out for the job in fall camp, Saban—as he pointed out following the spring game—will be searching for more consistency at that position.
Additionally, Scott could also be called upon to replace Cody Mandell at punter. With things far from settled at both spots, the special teams unit will be a point of focus over the summer and into fall camp.
While the A-Day game was admittedly a dress rehearsal in which little of the offense was on display, the showing by the Tide’s group of quarterbacks was lackluster at best.
Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman took the lion’s share of the snaps, but neither was impressive enough to curb the contingent of fans and scribes conceding the job to incoming FSU transfer Jacob Coker.
Regardless of which quarterback emerges to win the starting job, there’s a matter of getting them on the same page with the rest of the offense and getting comfortable in Kiffin’s system.
Whichever player is able to manage the offense and distribute the ball to the Tide’s loaded group of skill talent while limiting mistakes is eventually the passer who will earn the job.
With none of the players stepping up to seize the job in the spring, and the unknown element of how Coker will transition into the Tide’s system, quarterback will remain a polarizing topic until the Tide’s first official snap of the season.