Things to watch in Crimson Tide's A-Day game

Anniston StarApril 18, 2014 

Alabama Spring Football

Alabama linebackers Trey DePriest, right, and Reggie Ragland (19) work through inside linebacker drills during spring NCAA college football practice on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/, Vasha Hunt) MAGAZINES OUT


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The culmination of spring practice for Alabama is finally here as A-Day kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday from Bryant-Denny Stadium on ESPNU.

The Crimson team features the first-team offense and the second-team defense, while the White team is led by the first-team defense along with the second-team offense.

Kirby Smart (defensive coordinator), Burton Burns (running backs), Mario Cristobal (offensive line), Billy Napier (wide receivers) and Bo Davis (defensive line) will coach the Crimson team.

Lane Kiffin (offensive coordinator), Kevin Steele (inside linebackers), Lance Thompson (outside linebackers) and Bobby Williams (tight ends/special teams) will coach the White team.

Alabama won't show a lot when it comes to offensive and defensive schemes, but there's still a lot that can be gathered from the Tide's final scrimmage. And to get you prepared, here are some players, positions and more to watch during A-Day.

Blake Sims at QB

No disrespect to the other quarterbacks, but the 2014 A-Day is all about Blake Sims. While the coaches may not value A-Day more than the 14 other spring practices, the fans and spectators surely will. This will be Sims final chance to show fans he's capable of replacing AJ McCarron as the starting quarterback. No single player will be under more pressure than Sims with many believing he's just keeping the spot warm for Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, who'll arrive in late May.

But Sims used the first 14 practices, including the two scrimmages, to show he's anything but a place holder. In the first two scrimmages, he completed 40-of-62 passes for 515 yards and five touchdowns. Tide coach Nick Saban has praised Sims for his improvements during the spring and said he's shown a lot of command when running the team. If Sims has a big day on Saturday, it'll be tough for his detractors to write him off. If he struggles, Coker won't be able to get to campus fast enough in the eyes of some.

Cornerback questions

Stop me if you heard this in 2013: Alabama has question marks at cornerback. Alabama's secondary, particularly its cornerbacks, was arguably the team's weakest link last season. Now, Alabama is left scrambling for answers following a knee injury that sidelined sophomore Eddie Jackson, the team's best corner, for the rest of spring and summer workouts. Alabama has experience at the position as Cyrus Jones, Bradley Sylve and Maurice Smith started at least one game last season. There's also young talent with freshman Tony Brown and redshirt freshman Anthony Averett on the team. But none of the players mentioned have done anything from a consistency standpoint to put coaches or fans at ease.

Cam Robinson as a starter

All signs point to the five-star prospect getting every opportunity to win the starting left tackle job. With Cyrus Kouandjio leaving for the NFL, Alabama has a giant hole to fill and who better to try to plug it than the 6-foot-6, 325 pound Robinson? Saban has said that Robinson has improved, but still makes some mental errors. That's to be expected with a true freshman coming straight from high school. Question is, how soon can Robinson make the jump and become the dominant left tackle many think he's capable of being?

Offensive line versus defensive line

It's normal for the defensive line to be further along than the offensive line at this point, but exactly how much further is acceptable? Will Alabama's offensive line be able to get enough push in the run game? Also, can the offensive line pass protect well enough to give Sims a clean pocket to operate from? Alabama's defensive line may turnout to be the best Saban has had during his tenure at Alabama and if the offensive line can hold up against this group, it'll go along way in showing fans and others that it has improved enough to perform consistently in SEC competition.

Defensive alignments

Who lines up at safety in Alabama's base defense compared to when the Tide switches to its nickel and dime looks? Which linebackers take the field in which packages? Which group of defensive linemen run out when Alabama goes with a three-man front compared to a four-man front?

There is a small window for the media to watch practice, but reporters only see what the coaches want them to see.

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