What to expect
The Alabama Crimson Tide opens its 2012 regular season on September 1 in Dallas, and all eyes will be on head coach Nick Saban’s squad as it tries to open the season on a positive note as it tries to defend the championship it won in 2011. As the season draws nearer, there are a few notable areas of the Alabama roster that would be worthy of keeping an eye on next Saturday.
Backing up Eddie Lacy
Junior running back Eddie Lacy enters the 2012 season as the favorite to receive the most carries out of the backfield for the Crimson Tide. However, behind Lacy, the battle to become the back that comes in when Lacy needs a break has been fierce.
Jalston Fowler had a good spring, but he will likely be utilized in a role that better supports the type of running style he uses. Fowler is a bruising, north-to-south back and will likely be the Tide’s short yardage and third-down back. In addition to these areas, Fowler has seen time during the fall as an option at the H-back position, and he provides a unique combination of power and athleticism on the edge.
Freshmen running backs Dee Hart and T.J. Yeldon are the two most likely options to see playing time behind Lacy when the Tide takes the field in Dallas. Yeldon has used a great spring campaign to gain momentum and has excelled during the fall. The freshman from Daphne, Al., rushed for 60 yards in the Tide’s second scrimmage of the fall, and it would not be a major surprise if he becomes the first running back off of the bench for the Crimson Tide.
Nick Saban has never been shy to use a freshman running back in the first game of the season. Former Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson both saw time on the field in their first collegiate game. Ingram found his way onto the field in 2008, a time when the Crimson Tide had three veteran running backs with a large amount of experience.
The Crimson Tide secondary has consistently been one its strongest assets since head coach Nick Saban arrived in 2007, and that should be no different in 2012. However, the secondary has endured a few minor setbacks during the fall that could factor into the units depth should any injuries occur.
The starting unit for the Crimson Tide will be a highly competitve and very talented group, but should players from the second unit need to be inserted into the first unit given an unforseen circumstances, the Tide could be in a bit of a rough spot. There is no shortage of talent in the Alabama secondary, but an injury to Jarrick Williams has given the Alabama a sticky situation with its second unit.
Game experience is minimal behind the starting unit, and should the Tide need to insert one of its many young and talented defensive backs into the game, Michigan will have a chance to pick on the Tide.
Halfway through the Crimson Tide’s fall camp, head coach Nick Saban noted that the battle between Jeremy Shelley, freshman kicker Adam Griffith and Cade Foster was close and ongoing. The challenges of having three competitors at the position has provided an environment that likely has made each player practice and work even harder for the duties as kickoff specialist and placekicker.
Jeremy Shelley will likely be the Tide’s placekicker in extra-point situations during 2012, and his accuracy under 45 yards will likely help him keep his job as the short-range placekicker as well in field goal situations. However, when the Tide is backed up into situations that warrant a field goal longer than Shelley’s range, either Griffith or Foster could take the spot.
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