The first of three spring scrimmages begins at 1 p.m. in an empty Bryant-Denny Stadium — closed to the public. Another is scheduled for next Friday before the spring finale in the April 14 A-Day game.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said they were sprinkling in situational drills throughout the week in preparation for today’s test.
“To this point someone’s been out there telling them what to do every time and trying to help them make adjustments,” Saban said. “Now we’ll put them in a position in the practice where they have to make those decisions, they have to make those plays and see who can step up and do that.”
It will be the first indication of how close to even the offense and defense is through nine practices. After Monday’s workout, Saban said the offense and its veteran line was slightly ahead of its counterparts.
Third-year starting right tackle D.J. Fluker said the front line could be “great,” since it replaces just one starter. And since utility lineman and Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones is stepping into the vacated center position, Fluker likes this group’s chances.
“(Jones is) always trying to make the right call for us,” Fluker said. “We’ve just been on beat ever since then.”
The defense returns five starters from a unit that was arguably among the best in program history. It becomes a matter of chemistry building on the game field. For the new contributors, cornerback Dee Milliner agreed it could be a jarring experience.
“Yeah, for a lot of guys, since this is their first scrimmage for some,” he said. “For others, it’s just trying to get acquainted with everybody else and just trying to learn all the things you need to do.”
The scrimmage plan remains similar to the routine from previous springs. Goal-line situations and red zone exercises will be mixed in with regular game play.
Receiver Kenny Bell, who figures to be among the top targets for quarterback A.J. McCarron, said the past can’t factor into the present.
“We’re trying to create a new identity for this team,” Bell said. “We don’t want anybody saying we’re the national championship team. We just want to make a new identity so everyone will go out and compete.”