Finally, some football we get to see with our own two eyes.
After several weeks of closed practices and a few cordoned-off scrimmages, the reigning national champions will hold their annual A-Day scrimmage, providing a first look at the 2016 squad to close out spring camp.
Here are three things to watch when Alabama takes the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday:
1. Initial reading on the quarterbacks: Whatever happens during the game, don’t get carried away. Remember in 2014 when Blake Sims threw a couple of interceptions and appeared to squander his lead in the race? He went on to start every game and set a school record for passing yards in a single season. And what about 2015 when Jake Coker threw a pick in the second half and didn’t look comfortable running the offense? He only threw for 3,000 yards and led Alabama to a national championship. So don’t freak out if Cooper Bateman succeeds or fails as the likely No. 1 QB on Saturday. At the same time, don’t do the same if the other top candidates, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett, have some ups and downs. It’s the first time the public will get to see the quarterbacks in live action, but it’s nowhere near the final test before Nick Saban and his staff decide who to hitch their wagons to this season.
2. Scarbrough hype train: He comes in with all the hype in the world — the next Derrick Henry, one of the SEC’s top Heisman Trophy contenders, a true star in the making. Never mind that he hasn’t technically been named the starter and had only 18 carries as a freshman last year, Bo Scarbrough looks the part. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, he’s a physical specimen. As a former five-star prospect, he has the pedigree. And through two scrimmages, he has posted (reportedly) monstrous numbers, with four touchdowns and 244 yards. The public is already in a frenzy over Scarbrough; seeing him in action on Saturday should only feed the beast.
3. New-look defense: If you’re keeping track at home, there’s a new coordinator, new defensive backs coach, two new starters on the defensive line, a new starting safety and a new starting cornerback. That and the best returning defensive back — safety Eddie Jackson — is out, along with the top returning defensive lineman, Jonathan Allen. So if you’re looking for the Alabama defense of 2015, it won’t be there. Instead, fans will get a taste of what the 2016 version will look like now that Jeremy Pruitt is calling plays. Granted, Saban is still the guiding force of the operation, so not much should change philosophically. But the development of several key players — Rashaan Evans, Ronnie Harrison, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Da’Shawn Hand and Tim Williams to name a few — will be worth following.