The treacherously long, two-month offseason is over, and Gumps everywhere are rejoicing – Alabama football is scheduled to hold its first practice of the spring season on Friday afternoon. Three members of The Crimson White’s sports staff previewed Alabama’s offense and defense entering spring football:
QB: Losing one of the most decorated quarterbacks in program history would be a major problem for most teams. It will be difficult for Alabama to replace the production from Tua Tagovailoa, but there are several players ready to step up. Redshirt junior Mac Jones started four games last year and played significant minutes after the injury to Tagovailoa, finishing with 1,503 yards and 14 touchdowns. Five-star early enrollee Bryce Young could challenge Jones for the starting job. Tua’s younger brother, sophomore Taulia Tagovailoa, and redshirt freshman Paul Tyson saw limited playing time last season and will likely serve as backups again in 2020.
WR: Alabama had one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the country in 2019. Two are headed to the NFL, but Alabama returns 1,816 yards and 21 touchdowns of production from 2019 in senior DeVonta Smith and junior Jaylen Waddle. There’s not a ton of experience behind those two; freshman John Metchie III, redshirt junior Tyrell Shavers and redshirt sophomore Xavier Williams are the next options. Redshirt sophomore Slade Bolden didn’t have much production receiving-wise in 2019, but he was used multiple times in the Wildcat, particularly on fourth down. Two early enrollees are on campus during the spring: Traeshon Holden and Thaiu Jones-Bell.
RB: The running back group got a boost when Najee Harris announced that he would be returning for his senior year. With that announcement, Alabama returns its top three rushers from 2019, also including senior Brian Robinson Jr. and sophomore Keilan Robinson. Redshirt freshman Trey Sanders, the No. 1 RB in the 2019 recruiting class, will also look to make his Alabama debut after a season-ending foot injury last August. Freshmen Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams are enrolled for the spring.
TE: The tight end group will be returning redshirt senior Miller Forristall, who led his position in catches, yards and touchdowns. Also returning are redshirt junior Major Tennison and sophomore Jahleel Billingsley. While Alabama signed one tight end in this past recruiting class, freshman Caden Clark, it also added graduate transfer Carl Tucker from North Carolina. In his five years with the Tar Heels, Tucker totaled 36 catches for 549 yards and four touchdowns.
OL: Five returning offensive linemen started at least four games last season: left tackle Alex Leatherwood, left guard Evan Neal, center Landon Dickerson, right guard Deonte Brown and center Chris Owens. All are seniors except Neal, who’s a sophomore. The hole at right tackle could be filled by Neal, which could allow Owens, redshirt sophomore Emil Ekiyor Jr. or sophomore Darrian Dalcourt into the fray on the interior. Last year, Owens and redshirt junior Kendall Randolph also saw snaps as sixth offensive linemen with different jersey numbers.
DL: The Crimson Tide doesn’t return much production, but the depth up front should give it a healthy rotation and make the D-line one of the team’s strengths. Redshirt junior LaBryan Ray is in line for plenty of snaps at defensive end after playing in just three games in 2019 before a season-ending foot injury. Sophomores Byron Young and Justin Eboigbe and redshirt sophomore Christian Barmore join Ray in the defensive end rotation, and sophomore D.J. Dale started 10 games at nose tackle last year.
OLB: Losing Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis hurts, but coach Nick Saban has expressed confidence in redshirt junior Christopher Allen, who started in Lewis’ place in the Citrus Bowl to end last year. The other OLB spot is up for grabs among redshirt senior Ben Davis, sophomore King Mwikuta and redshirt sophomore Jarez Parks. Three five-star recruits will also compete for snaps during the spring: Will Anderson Jr., Chris Braswell and Drew Sanders.
ILB: Alabama got some of the best news it could hope for when Dylan Moses announced he would be returning for a fourth season. Moses did not play one snap last year after tearing his ACL in preseason camp, but he led the team in total tackles in 2018. Moses will lead the returning inside linebackers, including sixth-year senior Joshua McMillon and sophomores Christian Harris and Shane Lee. Harris and Lee started in 2019 as true freshmen trying to fill in for Moses and McMillon, who both sustained season-ending injuries. Harris and McMillon are the two most likely starters at Will linebacker, next to Moses at Mike.
DB: Junior Patrick Surtain Jr. and sophomore Jordan Battle are safe to pencil in as starters. Surtain and junior college transfer Ronald Williams Jr. are expected to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback and Star (slot cornerback), respectively. Junior Josh Jobe started the first and last games of 2019 and is slated to open the spring as the other outside corner. Williams could also play safety next to Battle, but if he stays at corner, redshirt junior Daniel Wright is the expected second safety.