Alabama's 5 Biggest Position Battles Heading into 2020 Fall Camp
There was no spring, and the start of the 2020 college football season has been at least delayed.
So getting back on the field has been a long time coming for Nick Saban and Alabama.
Like usual, there won't be any official talk about a depth chart until the week of the season opener Sept. 26, against an opponent to be determined.
But there's a lot to figure out in the meantime.
Here are the top position battles for the Crimson Tide this fall:
1] Defensive backs
About the only thing that's certain heading into fall camp is that Patrick Surtain Jr. will be a fixture. Everything else to be determined as coaches piece together the unit like a jigsaw puzzle.
Josh Jobe figures to step up at cornerback, and Alabama brought in junior-college transfer Ronald Williams Jr. to compete for a regular role. At 6-2, 190 pounds, he could give the coaches the flexibility to try Surtain at the slot defender in the nickel package.
Safety is a bigger question as Alabama has to fill both spots. Jordan Battle, figures to be in one spot after he played in all 13 games with four starts last season. The Crimson Tide has depth at the position, and it'll be interesting to see if one of the younger prospects can challenge a veteran like Daniel Wright from the get-go.
2] Offensive line
Alabama returns four of its five starters, but the eventual look of the unit may come down to who emerges as the fifth and last player.
Evan Neal will likely get a long look at right tackle, going from left guard, which would simplify things significantly and lead to the competition being exclusively in the interior.
Landon Dickerson played center for the first time last season, but is more of a natural guard so the key a spot could be center.
Sophomore Darrian Dalcourt is a name to watch, but also Emil Ekiyor Jr. and Chris Owens.
Something to keep in mind is that if football is played this fall, and anyone who is exposed to the coronavirus can go into isolation, depth will be more important than ever. Players like Tommy Brown and Pierce Quick will need to be ready to go at all times.
3] Wide receivers
DeVonta Smith returned for his senior season and Jaylen Waddle will step in to the slot. That leaves one starting position and several reserve roles that need to be filled.
Even though he only had four receptions last season John Metchie III will be a frontrunner to step into a bigger role. A versatile player who will be a lot more in the mix is Slade Bolden.
The tricky part for Alabama is that it doesn't have a lot of depth. Newcomers Javon Baker, Thaiu Jones-Bell and Traeshon Holden will have opportunities to contribute immediately.
The contrast in competition between the interior and outside linebackers is as different as the positions themselves.
In the interior, Alabama will have Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon back from knee injuries. Between them and Shane Lee and Christian Harris, who filled in as freshmen last season, the Crimson Tide will essentially have four starters.
The outside spots have the exact opposite issue, as two new starters are needed.
Alabama signed a stellar recruiting class in 2020, and one of its top priorities was to bolster its defensive front seven
Alabama added a stellar group of edge players in the last recruiting class with Will Anderson, Chris Braswell, Quandarrius Robinson and Drew Sanders.
“We really like that group of guys,” Nick Saban said.
They figure to push veterans like Ben Davis, King Mwikuta, Jarez Parks and Kevin Harris. Christopher Allen is the veteran of the group and played in all 13 games last season.
Mac Jones comes in as the starter/incumbent, which makes it very likely that he'll begin the season in that role regardless of what happens during fall camp. Freshman Bryce Young, who some considered to be as big of a prospect as anyone in the recruiting Class of 2020, enrolled early to try and immediately challenge only to see spring practices canceled.
This isn't to say he can't win over the team and land the starting job during fall camp, but it's a lot to ask.
Jones started four games and finished 97-of-141 passing for 1,503 yards, with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. He stepped up as a leader and finished the season with a strong performance in the Citrus Bowl: 16-of-25 for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
Alabama has three scholarship quarterbacks, with Paul Tyson also in the mix, to go with three prominent walk-ons who be looked upon to provide necessary depth.
This is the second in a five-part series of things to look for during Alabama's 2020 fall camp.