A pair of key players on last season’s national championship team are already impressing coaches in spring practice, with a catch: Rashaan Evans and Ross Pierschbacher are working out at new positions.
Evans, an edge rusher who racked up four sacks in 2015, has been a natural at inside linebacker.
“We recruited him because he has such fast-twitch ability to rush on the edge,” coach Nick Saban said after Monday’s practice. “He did a good job of that last year, and we’ll still have every plan to use him at that. But we were looking to: Where can he develop to have an every-down position the best?”
Reuben Foster is penciled in at one of the inside starting spots, but there’s room for another player to join him, and Evans — a junior — might be a good fit.
“I’ve been impressed with what he’s been able to do so far,” Saban said. “He is naturally instinctive at it, so it’s just going to be a matter of him learning the position.”
The Crimson Tide are doing “a lot of experimenting this spring,” according to Saban, and that extends to the offensive side of the ball.
Sophomore guard Ross Pierschbacher has been getting snaps in at center through two practices.
“He’s done a really nice job for two practices,” Saban said. “Haven’t had pads on yet, so can’t really tell much about that. But that’s certainly a critical position.”
There are several tasks Alabama demands from its starting center: Direct the blocking scheme, develop the quarterback’s confidence and “reach” defenders in the Tide’s zone blocking scheme (among others).
Ryan Kelly, last year’s Rimington Trophy winner and a departing senior, displayed all of them. Now, Pierschbacher and J.C. Hassenauer are two of the favorites to step in as a full-time replacement.
“We obviously lost a great player at that position,” Saban said. “It’s gonna be critical for us to be able to develop somebody who can play it effectively for the fall.”
What’s next: Alabama hits the practice field again Wednesday.