Spring practice: 10 positions, 10 questions

Oct 14, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban leads his players out to the field prior to the start of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban leads his players out to the field prior to the start of their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

[ LB  |  TE  |  P  |  PK  |  QB  |  S  |  OL  |  DT  |  RB  |  LB ]

8. Defensive tackle

This one has flown under the radar a bit in large part to the ease by which replaced Da’Ron Payne last year. Now’s a good time, however, to ask yourself whether can bank on a relative unknown player rising to not only meet, but exceed the challenge two years in a row.

Unlike the other position battles above, there really isn’t any competition here. This is going to be Phidarian Mathis’ to lose. Mathis started slowly in 2018 but by the end of the year, was probably the second-best reserve at any of the DL positions behind only LaBryan Ray. No one is expecting him to be Williams Part II, but no one was expecting Williams to be Payne Part II, either. The real question here is what looks like.

Ray isn’t a nose, and he’s expected to start at the T/E combo position, anyway. has the size to play in the middle but he brings more disruptiveness to the defense if allowed to play on the edge. That leaves as the only holdover NT from 2018, and Musika played virtually none in the second half of the year. and are expected to play big roles as reserves this year, but whether they can do it at the nose tackle slot is another matter.

brought in in for early spring work; he’s no doubt a nosetackle, but Dale was considered more of a long-term prospect at the time of his signing. Neither nor are thought of as ideal nose types, but Alfano is a good enough prospect as an end or outside tackle that he might be good enough to bump Davis inside on early downs.

Summary: There is talent all over the place here, more in fact than there was last year, overall. Experience is at a premium and the issue of “fit” is of even greater concern. Also, Alabama’s decision to move on from Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coach – a move that caught many off-guard given Kuligowski’s proven track record of developing pass-rushing linemen – in favor of Brian Banks signals a core change in philosophy. isn’t expected to be quite as aggressive up front in 2019, or at least more mindful of its risk/reward ratio. The that can execute assignments are going to rise to the top of the chart.

READ MORE:  Running Backs


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