2014 Could Provide the Most Intriguing Alabama Spring Practice Under Nick Saban
When the Alabama football team takes to the practice field for spring practice on Saturday, there might be as much outside interest on this camp as any since Nick Saban's arrival in Tuscaloosa.
Seven years ago, Nick Saban was preparing for his first spring practice as head coach of the Crimson Tide. Between the controversy surrounding his exit from the Miami Dophins and a tradition-rich program deprived of any amount sustained success for much of the 25 years since Bear Bryant hung up the houndstooth hat, to say people were interested would be like saying SEC fans kinda like football.
By the time camp had wrapped in 2007, college football's biggest story was the attendance for the A-Day game. The 90,000+ fans that showed up for a glorified practice set the standard for schools around the country.
While the circumstances have changed quite a bit since that record-setting Saturday, following what happens over the next three weeks might be just as intriguing as 2007.
You could prioritize the story lines in four or five ways and be able to justify the order of each. Ask 20 different fans around the state and you might get 15 different lists of what's most important this spring. For a team that fell a play short of possibly making another national championship appearance - which would have been the fourth in five years - there are plenty of questions that will need to be answered before next season. Starting Saturday, we'll be able to start forming conclusions.
First and foremost, Alabama will look to instill that hunger that wasn't always present in 2013. As each incoming freshman class enters the program with an extra year of success behind the program, the challenge of erasing any sense of entitlement gets more and more difficult.
Many assume that an 11-win season with no hardware might be the motivation some players need to find the drive needed to stay on top, but that catylst has to start from within. Can this team find the leaders it needs? You would expect that answer to be yes, but the process of establishing leadership will have to be a priority among the veterans.
Replacing leaders and replacing key players goes hand-in-hand this offseason. With the departure of quarterback AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley, Alabama has to make up for nine combined years in the system and fill the role of quarterback on both sides of the ball.
Those two highlight a number of position battles that will be contested over the next five months. Not only will there be a lot of competition, but most of it will include high-profile players. From quarterback to running back to the defensive backfield, there will be opportunities all over the field for both experienced players and newcomers alike.
Throw in the addition of Lane Kiffin along with the return of Bo Davis and Kevin Steele to Crimson Tide sidelines and you can say goodbye to your attention span for the next month.
While we won't get all of our questions answered by the A-Day game on April 19, we'll have plenty to analyze over the summer.