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Da'Ron Payne is a rock in the middle of Alabama's defense.

No. 1 priority for Alabama football’s fall camp: Stepping up on defense

SEC Country’s Alabama football coverage team weighs in on the No. 1 priority for fall camp, which starts Thursday.

Here’s what our reporters Christopher Walsh, Marq Burnett and Chris Kirscher have to say:

Christopher Walsh: Stay healthy

When it comes to the depth chart, there really aren’t many position battles. The coaches need to have confidence that Trevon Diggs is ready to be a starting cornerback and are looking for someone to step up on the right side of the offensive line.

Otherwise, it’s everyone being comfortable with Brian Daboll as the offensive coordinator. The transition seemed to go well in the spring, and starting quarterback Jalen Hurts continues to develop as a sophomore.

Of course, the real top priority of training camp is the same as any other year, and that’s to get everyone ready for the season with as few physical setbacks or injuries as possible. Despite the physical nature of practices, it’s something Nick Saban has been really good at over the years.

Marq Burnett: Defensive line

It will be important for Alabama to figure out its defensive line rotation. Alabama typically likes to have six or seven guys who can rotate in and out along the line so that guys aren’t completely worn down.

With Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson gone, who’s ready to step up? Da’Ron Payne will continue to be the rock in the middle. Junior college transfer Isaiah Buggs should have an immediate impact. Da’Shawn Hand appeared ready to step into a full-time starting role as a senior, but he was arrested for driving under the influence this past weekend.

While his status is uncertain, Alabama coach Nick Saban has shown a willingness to give players second chances while handling their discipline internally. Beyond that, there isn’t much experience. Guys like Raekwon Davis, Quinnen Williams and others need to show they can be counted on this season. That starts with a strong showing in camp.

Chris Kirschner: Defense

I think Alabama’s biggest priority in fall camp is establishing who’s going to be that next guy to take the next step up on defense. Alabama is replacing a ton of talent on defense as Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson, Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams, Reuben Foster, Eddie Jackson and Marlon Humphrey are all gone.

Each one of those players were key contributors. Can guys such as Deionte Thompson, Mack Wilson, Christian Miller, Anfernee Jennings and Trevon Diggs make that next leap? We should have a good idea of their progress when camp begins.

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