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Four questions Alabama fans want answered in spring practice

Jalen Milroe scrambles against Texas A&M
Photo courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Alabama football will crank up spring practice on Monday, March 20.

After not winning a College Football Playoff National Championship in the last two years, head coach Nick Saban knows the Crimson Tide’s journey back to the top begins in spring football.

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Alabama released its practice schedule Tuesday as Pro Day is on March 23, and the annual spring game is Saturday, April 22, at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Crimson Tide fans have several questions they want to be answered, but the four most significant ones are below.

1. Who wins the starting QB job between Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson?

Alabama’s offense is in a transition period.

Coach Saban experienced this in 2014 after having a pro-style scheme lead to three BCS National Championships (2009, 2011-12) and a Heisman Trophy-winning running back (Mark Ingram). The college game started turning to spread offenses, and Saban took a genius mind in Lane Kiffin and an unproven quarterback (Blake Sims) and propelled the Crimson Tide to the inaugural College Football Playoff. Alabama parted ways from Bill O’Brien after two years and hired Tommy Rees.

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The Tide has an interesting quarterback conversation between Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson.

Rees looks to provide a balanced attack; however, which signal-caller is better suited to run his offense? Milroe and Simpson are talented players, but it will be exciting to see who wins the team. Milroe, a third-year player, gained experience in 2022 – including his first career start against Texas A&M at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He totaled three touchdown passes in a win.

Simpson did not play much last year, but the former five-star brings a lot to the table.

2. Can Alabama’s defense return to being feared in college football?

Alabama football led with defense for a long time under Coach Saban.

Opposing teams feared and respected the Crimson Tide on defense because it was better prepared mentally and physically for action. Several players made the Tide a force, and its defense provided the blueprint for five of six national championships in the Saban era.

Since 2019, Alabama has lost the edge. The production across the board suffered in four seasons with Pete Golding as defensive coordinator. Teams did not want to face Alabama in the early years of Saban, but now everyone embraces playing the Tide. Alabama’s defense was the reason the team missed the CFP last year. It allowed 52 points to Tennessee and did not hold the lead against Louisiana State University. Saban let go of Golding and returned Kevin Steele to action for the defense.

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He’s made other hires, including Charlie Strong as a defensive analyst.

The new staff looks to keep things simple and return the Tide to playing physical football.

3. Will this new coaching staff push Alabama to a national title?

After watching Kirby Smart bring Georgia back-to-back CFP National Championships, Crimson Tide fans want to see its team return to the top.

It all begins with the new coaching staff Saban brought in. He has a mixture of young names and old-school coaches, but will the pieces gel together to push the Tide to a national championship? Tommy Rees’ scheme needs to match Kevin Steele’s.

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Robert Bala, Alabama’s new inside linebackers coach, must get his position to excel. Charlie Strong, who helped the Tide capture a CFP National Championship in 2020, will provide his expertise in strategizing a game plan. Alabama also brought over Ken Whisenhunt (former NFL head coach), Ha’Sean “HaHa” Clinton-Dix (former Alabama safety), and Harding Harper (assistant director of player personnel) for the coaching staff. If everyone feeds off each other well, this can be a championship staff.

4. Does a No. 1 wide receiver emerge from this group?

Alabama did not have a playmaker separate as the No. 1 wide receiver in 2022.

Jahmyr Gibbs, a running back, led the team for receptions (44), but the Crimson Tide has produced several 1,000-yard receivers under Saban. Alabama has a roster of talented weapons, including some that have added weight this offseason, but has the No. 1 option emerged? No matter if Jalen Milroe or Ty Simpson wins the quarterback, both need dependable players to stretch defenses out. Alabama returns Jermaine Burton, Ja’Corey Brooks, Kobe Prentice, Isaiah Bond, Kendrick Law, and Shazz Preston. It signed a few talented freshmen and a junior college transfer in this recent class.

We shall see if a primary target emerges for the offense.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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