You can almost hear it. The sound of shoulder pads clashing, the whistle blowing, coaches' voices carrying across the field, and the zip of the ball leaving the quarterback's hands under near triple-digit heat can only mean one thing. It's time for some football.
And just like that, it's time for "the process" to begin again as Alabama opens fall camp with practice on Friday afternoon.
The eyes of the college football world will be on Tuscaloosa to see if the Crimson Tide can repeat as national champions, but this is nothing new for Nick Saban. It will be the sixth time at Alabama that he has started camp as the defending national champion.
Losing six players in the first round of the NFL draft and 10 players overall would seem to be a huge cause for concern for any college team. While there are certainly question marks surrounding this team, another top-ranked recruiting class from the spring is in place to restock and reload at positions that need help.
"The challenge is you've got to rebuild with a lot of new players who will be younger, have new roles, less experience, and how do they respond to these new roles?" Saban said at media days. "That's why rebuilding is a tremendous challenge. That's why it's very difficult to repeat."
Normally one of the biggest storylines heading into fall practice surrounds who will be the starting quarterback. And while Saban has not officially named a starter at quarterback (or any position), all signs indicate that it will be true sophomore Bryce Young under center.
Young will have big shoes to fill as Alabama has recently had three of the most dynamic seasons of quarterback play in Crimson Tide history behind the arms of Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones. Young does not have any career starts but was 13-22 for 156 yards and one touchdown in the shortened 2020 season.
"We're going to be a work in progress as we focus on improvement, and that's going to be critical to our success," Saban said. "We have a lot of difficult games early on the road, new coaches, new quarterback, eight new guys on offense. We do have some eight or nine starters back on defense."
Some of those starters back on defense include linebackers Christopher Allen, Christian Harris and Will Anderson Jr., defensive backs Jordan Battle, Josh Jobe and Malachi Moore and defensive lineman DJ Dale.
On offense, Alabama will have to replace the starting quarterback, top wide receiver, top running back and three offensive lineman. Returning players like John Metchie III, Brian Robinson Jr. and Jahleel Billinglsey have the opportunity to step up and replace and reproduce that production from 2020.
"This year, fortunately, we're back to normal and we could go through spring practice, and I do think that has helped the development of a lot of the eight new starters that we're going to have on offense," Saban said. "Hopefully that will pay off, especially early in the season."
Fall camp also provides the opportunity for some of the freshman from that top recruiting class to make a name for themselves. Which freshman can make an immediate impact for the Crimson Tide? Players like DB Kool-Aid McKinstry or WR Jacorey Brooks and OL JC Latham could make big opening impressions at fall camp.
For the uncertainty surrounding this team, Alabama is still considered by most to be a preseason top two or three team and will be in the mix for the SEC title and another College Football Playoff appearance, but it all starts in the grueling days of fall camp.
And it all leads up to the official start of the season when Alabama kicks off on September 4 against Miami in Atlanta.