BamaOnLine breaks down what Alabama’s starting lineups on offense and defense would be if the Crimson Tide played a game this evening
We got our first glimpse of the 2019 Alabama football team last Friday when the Crimson Tide took the field for its first of 15 spring practices. But because of spring break, that was eight days ago, and spring practice No. 2 won’t occur for another two days (Monday, March 18).
Still, the inaugural practice of the spring gave us a preview of what the 2019 team could look like when it takes the field inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 31 for its season opener against the Duke Blue Devils -- as well as the Golden Flake A-Day Game on Saturday, April 13.
In a couple of viewing periods of one practice, we started to see the order of position groups -- though things can change between now and August. The rest of the Tide’s 2019 signing class hasn’t arrived on campus yet and there were a few players missing from practice No. 1. But for the most part, the brief window for viewing matched up with our offseason projected depth chart.
With that in mind, we break down what Alabama’s starting lineups on offense and defense would be if the Crimson Tide played a game this evening, based on the first spring practice, what took place on the field and at practice last season and just some pure guesses on our part.
So, if you’re Nick Saban, this is the time to stop reading.
If you’re not, here is Alabama’s projected starting lineup after only one spring practice.
QB -- Tua Tagovailoa
RB -- Najee Harris
WR-X -- DeVonta Smith
WR-Z -- Henry Ruggs III
WR-H -- Jerry Jeudy
TE -- Miller Forristall
TE-H -- Major Tennison
LT -- Alex Leatherwood
LG -- Emil Ekiyor
C -- Chris Owens
RG -- Matt Womack
RT -- Jedrick Wills
DE -- Raekwon Davis
NG -- Phidarian Mathis
DE -- LaBryan Ray
SAM -- Terrell Lewis
MIKE -- Dylan Moses
WILL -- Joshua McMillon
JACK -- Anfernee Jennings
CB -- Trevon Diggs
CB -- Patrick Surtain II
FS -- Jared Mayden
SS -- Xavier McKinney
STAR -- Shyheim Carter
*** Note: There are 24 players listed because Alabama announces its offensive starters with three receivers and two tight ends and its defensive starters with a base front seven and nickel secondary.
-- Offensively, there doesn’t need to be much of an explanation. With running backs Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs and tight ends Hale Hentges and Irv Smith Jr. no longer on campus, it’s next man up for Alabama. Najee Harris saw plenty of carries last year and should be the No. 1 back this fall. As for the tight end position, Forristall has the most experience there and should be the starter. Tennison gets the other nod because Kedrick James will miss the first four games because of an NCAA suspension in the postseason. Both position groups are thin right now.
-- The offensive line is exactly what departing center Ross Pierschbacher said it would be. Now, a lot of that has to do with Deonte Brown likely being in the same boat as James, but other than left guard, the rest of the players we saw go through drills with the first group make sense. When Jonah Williams exited the 2018 title game with an injury, it was Leatherwood that stepped in at left tackle and played well the rest of the game. Womack brings experience to a young line, though he hasn’t played guard before at UA. This group could still, but we’ll continue to monitor it.
-- Defensively, it was pretty much what we predicted, as well. With Quinnen Williams and Isaiah Buggs moving on to the NFL, the first two players off the bench last year simply moved up the pecking order and joined Davis on the front lines this spring. The same can be said for outside linebackers where Lewis replaced Christian Miller. The former still has a brace on his knee and will likely be on a pitch count this spring, but he was moving well through drills and is nearing 100-percent health after tearing his right ACL prior to the start of preseason camp last year.
-- The one area that will be the most interesting to watch this spring and offseason will be the inside linebacker group. Moses and McMillon were first up in drills with defensive coordinator Pete Golding, but there was a glaring absence last Friday. Rising sophomore Ale Kaho wasn’t at practice due to “some issues” he was dealing with off the field, Saban said. Kaho is a player that could take a big step between Years 1 and 2 and compete for a starting spot. He could return as early as Monday’s practice, or we could be writing the same missing update as practice No. 1.
-- The secondary loses two players but gains another with the return of Diggs (foot). As for the safety that replaces Deionte Thompson, Mayden was the sixth defensive back last year and will get the first crack at it this spring. What’s intriguing about the defensive backs is Alabama can move guys around. Carter can play safety. Wright is back and will compete with Mayden and others there. Diggs can play Star, allowing Carter to play safety and a young guy like Josh Jobe to get on the field. So, there are a lot of possibilities for Saban and company to shake things up.
-- Special teams isn’t included because we don’t get to see the specialists do much at practice other than a few kicks and punts. But how things play out for the specialists will be one of the top storylines of the spring. As will the rest of these positions. Look, a lot can change between now and the middle of April, and even more between now and fall camp. But these projections give you a good idea of where position battles stand to open spring ball. Plus, have you ever wondered what it’s like coming up with football stories with nine days between practices? Tada.