Alabama football’s historic 2020 offense may not be a distant memory to many, but it will be on UA’s practice field this spring.
The defending national champion Crimson Tide opens spring practice Friday.
Four of the five offensive position coaches and all but three of the full-time starters from that unit are gone, the coaches to bigger opportunities and the players to the NFL Draft process. A wholesale restart on the offensive end means many positions up for grabs as Alabama starts spring practice, and here the ones most worthy of monitoring.
pecking orderReplacing the 2,710 rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns Najee Harris produced over the last two seasons may not be a one-man task — and conveniently, UA may not ask one person to do it.
Harris broke the Alabama mold of a rotation of running backs in recent years, one that could return with a change in leadership (offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to Bill O’Brien) and a deep running back corps with no proven alpha. Brian Robinson Jr. is the most experienced — his 274 college carries are more than the rest of the position group combined — but the talent behind him may force its way into a workload sharing system.
Jase McClellan impressed in his freshman season, averaging over 10 yards per carry in his 23 attempts, doing so in the absence of Trey Sanders, who continues recovery from his car accident in the fall.
Both could factor into a potential partnership with Robinson Jr. for carries, as could McClellan’s classmate Roydell Williams, incoming five-star freshman Camar Wheaton and Keilan Robinson, who was third on the 2019 team in carries and opted out of the 2020 season.
Offensive lineEvan Neal will hold his starting tackle spot and Emil Ekiyor Jr. is likely to do the same at guard, although he could slide to center if the Tide so chose. Where Alabama goes from there will be determined by who emerges as starter material and what hole is left for Chris Owens to fill.
Owens is a heavy favorite to take one of the open starter positions for two reasons: He has been Alabama’s No. 6 offensive lineman for two seasons now and he is versatile, able to play every position on the line. That being the case, if junior Darrian Dalcourt emerges as a starting center and one of a handful of candidates does the same at tackle — Amari Kight, Javion Cohen or freshmen Tommy Brockermeyer or JC Latham — Owens could fit at guard. There is also the chance one of those tackles rises in tandem with Pierce Quick or Tommy Brown at guard, giving Alabama a void at center for Owens to fill.
Therein lies the true position battle. This spring will not determine if Owens is in the offensive line, but where he will be in it, a result that will largely depend on the play of those around him.
Third, fourth and fifth wide receivers
John Metchie III returns as an obvious leader for the No. 1 receiver position, and Slade Bolden is likely to see his role increase. What Alabama does in its remaining top-level receiver positions is anyone’s guess.
Xavier Williams and Javon Baker are the leaders among the rest in 2020 receptions, but they combined for just five catches. Baker was a freshman last season alongside other viable options in Thaiu Jones-Bell and Traeshon Holden, but all of them will have to hold off an impressive freshman class incoming. Jacorey Brooks, Agiye Hall, JoJo Earle and Christian Leary are all among the top 11 receivers in the 2021 class, and all of them arrive with immediate playing time there for the taking.
Will there be any quarterback drama?
The nature of the position will make it the one with the most pomp and circumstance over the offseason, but the real surprise would be if there is a true battle at all, not who wins the competition. Bryce Young was clearly ahead of Paul Tyson on last season’s depth chart, making him the clear favorite to start over him and freshman incomer Jalen Milroe.