Alabama's A-Day 2017 has quite the different vibe this time around.
Last year, the triumphant national champions marched into Bryant-Denny Stadium and saw 76,212 fans show up. Short of the record, 92,310, but a giant crowd for a spring game nonetheless.
It's hard to predict the numbers this year, but Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide seeking redemption after falling to Clemson in the College Football Playoff title game creates an electric environment as almost every job on the roster goes up for grabs.
A-Day under Saban typically marks the celebration of the year prior and provides a blueprint for the future. This time, it's all about looking ahead.
2017 Alabama Spring Game
When: Saturday, April 22, at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Live Stream: WatchESPN
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Jalen Hurts is more than familiar with the pressure entering an A-Day a year removed from throwing for 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions while also finishing second on the team in rushing with 954 yards and 13 scores.
No longer a freshman, Hurts has spent the spring showcasing new skills to combat frailties opponents exploited last year. Saban has been quite open about his starting quarterback's progression, especially in a note captured by ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff.
"Decision-making, getting the ball out of his hand more quickly, not looking at the rush, not drifting in the pocket, reading and having his eyes in the right place, relative to the coverage and the read that that particular play has," Saban said.
Hurts benefits from arguably the SEC's deepest backfield, though guys like Damien Harris won't suit up Saturday because of injury.
The focus needs to be on the receiving weapons around Hurts anyway. ArDarius Stewart is gone, so a battle featuring Cam Sims, Robert Foster and others is a must-see detail, as the winner likely goes on to start next to Calvin Ridley.
No matter who wins out, the pressure is enormous—Saban hasn't been shy about how his receivers' struggles to catch the ball hurt the offensive approach against Clemson, as captured by ESPN.com: "If we had caught some passes in the national championship game—we had some guys open—we wouldn't have had to control the ball. We would have scored more touchdowns."
Don't forget the offensive trenches, where the right side of the line still looks like a question mark. The deep cast of backs won't have room to run to that side, and Hurts might find himself fleeing in the opposite direction often if young guys don't step up.
The defensive side of the football won't receive as much attention Saturday. Stalwarts like defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who seems ready to make the switch to safety, lead the way now.
As AL.com's Michael Casagrande noted, it has been Keith Holcombe and Rashaan Evans in the middle of the linebacking corps lately as the unit tries to move on from the loss of Reuben Foster and others.
Things are muddier when it comes to rushing the passer, as 67 total sacks just walked out the door in the form of Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson. But notables like Da'Shawn Hand and another star-studded cast of recruits look to make up the difference after waiting their turn.
"It was a humbling experience, but I'm glad I went through it," Hand said of having to wait for the chance to start, according to SEC Country's Marq Burnett. "God has no mistakes in a man's life, so I was just riding the wave. I just kept chopping at the wood, and now's my time."
With guys like Hand waiting so long to get on the field, Saban shouldn't have any problems getting his guys to compete for the top spot in the SEC again.
This pursuit is in the public eye on Saturday.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.