TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Football is back, well sort of, as Alabama is set to open spring practice today.
The Crimson Tide will have a total of 15 practices with A-Day capping the spring on Saturday, April 18.
In between answering questions about former players at Alabama's pro day on Wednesday, Saban took a minute to talk about the start of spring workouts.
Saban said the team had a "really good offseason" and added that he's "really excited about this team."
"They seem to have a great attitude, they've worked really hard and got a pretty good leadership group," Saban said. "I'm excited about it. I know we've got a lot of holes to fill, especially on offense. But we also have a lot of veteran players who have played a lot of football here that are going to get the opportunity to maybe take advantage of having a greater role on the team."
With so many key players gone, Alabama has a lot of unanswered questions heading into spring.
1. Who will start at quarterback?
There's a better way to word this question: If Jake Coker isn't the answer at quarterback then who is? Coker was brought in to potentially be a two-year starter, but he lost the first competition to Blake Sims. Heading into this first spring practice with the Tide, he finds himself in another battle. Only this time, he won't have another year left if he doesn't win the job. Outside of Coker, Alec Morris, Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett are the other contestants in this year's race.
Morris and Bateman will likely be Coker's biggest competition.
Both are talented in their own right, but neither has thrown a collegiate pass. Cornwell has year in the system, but he's still a freshman after redshirting last season.
While Barnett is the Tide's most highly ranked quarterback signee under Saban, no true freshman quarterback has taken a snap during Saban's tenure. All of that leads us back to Coker. He's the most experienced of the bunch, and a lot of the Tide's success this season rides on him taking the next step in his development. Again, if not Coker, then who?
2. How will the Tide replace its productive juniors?
Quarterback is the most important position, so when a team has an opening there, it automatically becomes the biggest question for any team. But replacing Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins may prove to be a tougher task.
Last season, Cooper broke multiple Alabama and SEC records with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. Over his career, Yeldon rushed for 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns. Collins led the Tide with 103 total tackles while also playing on multiple special teams. That type of production won't be easily replaced. Alabama will need some of its young playmakers to step up on both sides of the ball in order to cushion the blow.
3. Will three offensive linemen emerge to fill the voids?
All seven of Alabama's offensive linemen who started at least one game last season participated in spring practice last year. That means it isn't likely a true freshman who enrolls in the fall will earn a starting spot. With that said, three offensive linemen must step up to replace starters Austin Shepherd, Arie Kouandjio and Leon Brown with Ryan Kelly and Cam Robinson returning for next season. The most likely candidates are Grant Hill, Bradley Bozeman and Alphonse Taylor. Bozeman and Taylor started two games last season at center and right guard, respectively. Hill projects to be the heir apparent at right tackle as he came in whenever Shepherd had to go out with injury or when Shepherd had to switch to left tackle during games if Robinson went out with injury.
Other players who'll factor in are Dominick Jackson and Isaac Luatua along with 2014 signees Josh Casher, Ross Pierschbacher and J.C. Hassenauer. Early 2015 enrollees Brandon Kennedy and Dallas Warmack will get a look as well.
4. Who will be "the guy" in the secondary?
During Alabama's pro day on Wednesday, Landon Collins said he believes Cyrus Jones will be the leader of the Tide's secondary in 2015. Collins also mentioned safeties Geno Smith and Jabriel Washington as potential leaders for the position.
So with leadership out of the way, who will be the playmaker in the group? The one the defense can lean on to give them a spark when they need it? Collins was that guy last year. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was the year before him, and Dee Milliner was in 2012.
Can Jones be that guy this year? Jones was the Tide's most consistent performer at cornerback last season, and if he can improve on that, the secondary will have itself a lockdown corner. Young players like Tony Brown, Marlon Humphrey and Eddie Jackson may also be able to fill that role in spurts. At safety, Smith, Washington and others will have a lot to live up to in trying to replace Collins.
5. Is Derrick Henry ready to be a feature back, and who will back him up?
This question has been building since Henry ran over, around and through Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl his freshman season. Now the time is finally here. Gone is T.J. Yeldon, the Tide's starting running back for the past two seasons. So the backfield, and likely the team, is Henry's to lead.
With Yeldon banged up, Henry led the Tide in rushing with 990 yards and 11 touchdowns. He'll need to have his first 1,000-plus yard season and much more if the Tide is to have the type of success it has enjoyed in recent years. He'll have Kenyan Drake, who's coming off a season-ending leg injury, around to help him with leading the group.
Speaking of Drake, he'll likely be the No. 2 running back, but Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will likely use him in more ways than the traditionally running back role.
If healthy, Drake has the skill set to put up big numbers in Kiffin's offense. Drake is the biggest X-factor for the team in 2015. Behind those two, Alabama's running back depth chart is a bit of a mystery.
-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:note>