TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — All spring long, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban called it a rep chart and not a depth chart. The problem with a depth chart is that someone has to be on the bottom, and that’s not what practices are about when your first game isn’t until September.
Regardless, the A-Day game on Saturday gave observers a good indication on where everyone stands at the end of spring practices. While many of the starting jobs are still up for grabs, and a lot can change over the summer and training, it’s a good starting point for the 2017 season.
“Competition is healthy for you team,” Saban said when fielding a question about the offensive line during his A-Day press conference. “We’re going to play the best 5 guys, who give us the best chance.
“Football’s a developmental game. Players need the opportunity to develop before we get to the results.”
Starter: Jalen Hurts
Analysis: Hurts has clearly improved as a passer and in his decision-making, so there’s no sense of a quarterback controversy even though Tagovailoa was also impressive on A-Day. Jones is also off to a good start after enrolling early.
— Tua Tagovailoa (@Tuaamann_) April 21, 2017
Starter: Damien Harris — or — Bo Scarbrough
Analysis: The biggest problem at this position will be finding ways to get everyone involved. Damien Harris, Scarbrough and Emmons were all held out of A-Day because of injuries as a precautionary measure. Najee Harris and Robinson took advantage and showed that they’re ready to contribute.
Starters: Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster, Cam Sims
Analysis: Ridley and Foster both made big plays on A-Day and are set as the position stalwarts, while Jeudy was named the scrimmage’s MVP. Alabama still has Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith coming in. Townsend moved from running back.
Starters: Hale Hentges and Miller Forristall
Backups: Irv Smith Jr., Ronnie Clark and Major Tennison
Analysis: Hentges is more of the blocking tight end and Forristall a receiving option, although Smith can play both positions and is coming on. He’s someone to keep an eye out for. Clark moved from running back this spring.
Starters: LT Jonah Williams, LG Ross Pierschbacher, C Bradley Bozeman, RG Lester Cotton, RT Matt Womack
Analysis: Bozeman has emerged as the leader of the line, while Williams successfully made the transition from right tackle to left tackle. The big question is right tackle, where the competition will go into the fall. Leatherwood is the top challenger to Womack, but Lester is also an option if a guard steps forward.
Starters: Da’Ron Payne, Da’Shawn Hand, Josh Frazier — or — Isaiah Buggs
Backups: Josh Frazier, Quinnen Williams, Jamar King, Raekwon Davis, Johnny Dwight and O.J. Smith
Analysis: Buggs may be on his way to winning a starting job, but he’s still figuring out his responsibilities every play, and Frazier is a better option against the run. Regardless, both will see plenty of snaps. Davis was named the best lineman of A-Day. LaBryan Ray and Phidarian Mathis will both arrive over the summer.
Starters: Shaun Dion Hamilton, Rashaan Evans
Backups: Mack Wilson, Keith Holcombe, Josh McMillon, Dylan Moses, Shawn Jennings
Analysis: Hamilton is coming off a knee injury but should be ready for the fall. Holcombe stepped in and was the leading tackler on A-Day. He also notched a pair of sacks. Evans can play any of the linebacker spots and also will be used as pass rusher this season.
Starters: Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller
Backups: Terrell Hall, Mekhi Brown, Jamey Mosley and Ben Davis
Analysis: Not only does Alabama have a deep group of linebackers, but they’re versatile in that many could play in the interior or outside. With Christopher Allen, Markail Benton and VanDarius Cowan coming in, don’t be surprised to see some movement in the fall. Miller has to be the favorite to lead the team in sacks this season, and Hall showed why teammates have been raving about him with his impressive pick-6 on A-Day.
Starters: Anthony Averett, Trevon Diggs and Tony Brown (nickel defensive back)
Backups: Levi Wallace, Shyheim Carter, Aaron Robinson, Nigel Knott, Kyriq McDonald
Analysis: The Diggs experiment at cornerback appeared to stick, but he was the working definition of thrown into the fire and had a rough A-Day going against the first-team wide receivers. With his height, athleticism and knack for the ball, it would be a surprise to see him go back to wide receiver. Option 2 would be to move Minkah Fitzpatrick back, but he may be more dangerous as a safety.
Starters: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, Hootie Jones (dime defensive back)
Analysis: Harrison inherits the title of hardest hitter on the team, but had the key targeting penalty on A-Day that led to the game-winning field goal. Thompson missed the end of spring after an altercation in Texas, so his status remains unsettled. Mayden is coming off hip surgery but should be ready for training camp.