Schedule: The Tigers opened practice on Wednesday and will hold their A-Day spring game on April 16 at 2 p.m. ET.
What’s new: Mike Pelton will coach the defensive line after coaching the defensive ends at Vanderbilt last season. Pelton replaces Tracy Rocker, who left to take a job on the Tennessee Titans’ staff.
On the mend: Offensive tackle Shon Coleman, who signed as part of the 2010 class, is on the roster after battling leukemia last year. He isn’t expected to go through spring practice.
On the move: Senior Neiko Thorpe has moved from cornerback to safety. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said Thorpe is better suited to play safety. Brandon Mosley will slide from right offensive tackle to left offensive tackle, while A.J. Greene will return to the lineup at right tackle after suffering a season-ending ankle/lower leg injury last season. Ladarious Phillips, weighing in the 295-pound range, is going to get a shot at H-back.
Key battle: Prized true freshman Kiehl Frazier doesn’t arrive until this summer, so the spotlight this spring will be on Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley. They will split the No. 1 quarterback reps evenly. Nobody is expecting either one of them to be Cam Newton. But, then, Newton wasn’t named the starter until after spring practice had concluded a year ago. Trotter, a junior, has the edge in experience, although Moseley feels like he’s much more equipped mentally and emotionally to win the job than he ever was a year ago.
New faces: The Tigers have three early enrollees from high school participating in spring practice -- center Reese Dismukes, offensive lineman Thomas O’Reilly and cornerback Jonathan Rose. Given the departures in the secondary, including the recently dismissed Mike McNeil, Rose may get a shot to play early.
Breaking out: If he’s healthy -- and Trovon Reed never really was last season -- he’s one of those guys who can take short passes and turn them into touchdowns. He’s also a strong candidate to be the Tigers’ Wildcat quarterback. Before he was shelved for good last season, Reed’s teammates saw enough of him on the practice field to know what he would mean to any offense. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said he made a few plays that caused you to go, ‘Wow!”
Don’t forget about: This will be a completely different team than the one that won the national championship last season. Not only are the two headliners gone -- Nick Fairley and Newton -- but a total of 35 players who were on the roster in January in Glendale, Ariz., are no longer on the team. It’s imperative that new leaders emerge, and a large chunk of those leaders need to come from that highly rated 2010 signing class. Corey Lemonier, Jeffrey Whitaker, Ed Christian, Mike Dyer and Reed -- this is your time.
All eyes on: The Tigers didn’t post flashy numbers last season on defense, but they were outstanding when it counted and played their best football in the SEC championship and BCS National Championship games. Can they recapture that magic with so many new faces on defense? The only defensive starters returning are Nosa Eguae at end, Daren Bates at outside linebacker and T’Sharvan Bell at cornerback.