ANALYSIS |ALABAMA FOOTBALL
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Game week is finally here.
The college football season begins next week with Alabama opening its 2013 campaign versus Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Crimson Tide and Hokies square off in the Georgia Dome at 5:30 p.m.
The preseason may be over, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding the Tide's quest for a third consecutive national championship. Here are five:
1. What will the starting offensive line look like?
As of Saturday's practice, the first group of offensive lineman from left to right is Cyrus Kouandjio, Arie Kouandjio, Ryan Kelly, Anthony Steen and Austin Shepherd.
This is how the group began preseason practice before a brief switch with Arie and Shepherd changing positions.
Tide coach Nick Saban questioned the units run blocking after the first scrimmage and its pass protection following the second scrimmage.
This continues to be the biggest question mark surrounding the Tide. With Virginia Tech and Texas A&M iwn the first three weeks of the season, the offensive line will have to get good early if the Tide hopes to be successful.
2. Where is the depth for the offensive line?
An even bigger question may be which players will back up the five starters. Kellen Williams projects to be Alabama's sixth offensive lineman, as he can play multiple positions.
The rest of Alabama's reserve offensive lineman are unproven.
Also, if AJ McCarron is the Tide's most important player, Cyrus Kouandjio is 1A. Alabama doesn't have a player who could replace him at left tackle.
3. Who will the second and third running back be?
T.J. Yeldon is locked in as the No. 1 guy. Unless the Tide wants to give him a similar workload of Trent Richardson's 2011 year, he'll need a backup or two.
Dee Hart takes snaps as the No. 2 back with Kenyan Drake behind him. Then there's Jalston Fowler, who practices exclusively with the tight ends and H-backs during the media's viewing periods.
Along with those four, are four freshmen: Derrick Henry, Altee Tenpenny, Tyren Jones and Alvin Kamara. One or two of the freshmen are likely to redshirt.
Saban has praised Henry and Tenpenny for their play in scrimmages.
One thing is certain, Yeldon will have a lot of talented suitors vying to be his backup.
4. Has the pass rush improved?
The lack of pass rush hurt Alabama in 2012. The best way to help a young secondary is to pressure the quarterback.
Adrian Hubbard is the star of this group. He's the team's most talented pass rusher and could be a nightmare for opposing offenses if he performs to his potential.
Ed Stinson, Denzel Devall, Xzavier Dickson, Jeoffrey Pagan and some supremely talented freshmen will also be looking to bolster the Tide's pass rush this season.
5. Which freshmen will play early in the season?
Offensively, it's possible Derrick Henry, Altee Tenpenny, Raheem Falkins and O.J. Howard could see playing time.
Defensively, A'Shawn Robinson, Dee Liner, Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Maurice Smith and Eddie Jackson are a few who could make it on the field in 2013.
It's not uncommon for true freshmen to make splashes under Saban. Last season, Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Geno Smith were a few that grabbed headlines.