The college football season is less than a week away.

Alabama will kick off its 2014 campaign this Saturday against West Virginia inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. With that also comes the inevitable question marks about the team.

As is the case at the start of every season, new players must fill the voids left by departed ones from the previous year and, in most instances, that transition isn’t seamless.

Here are five positions to keep an eye out for that could have a direct impact in determining the Crimson Tide’s fate this season.


When Jacob Coker arrived this summer from Florida State, he was expected by most to take full command of the starting job by the start of the season. After all, he did take the Seminoles’ quarterback battle with Jameis Winston – who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy – to the final week of fall camp last season before Winston was ultimately named the starter.

But heading into Week 1 against West Virginia, Coker has yet to outright win the job and likely won’t, if ever, until after the start of the season.

Enter Blake Sims, the other man in line to possibly claim the starting job. A two-year backup to AJ McCarron, Sims has been given every opportunity to win the job for himself this August, seemingly matching Coker every step of the way thus far.

Though having potentially two reliable quarterbacks on the roster isn’t necessarily a bad thing, not having a definitive starter at arguably the most important position on the field going into the season isn’t ideal.

Left Tackle

The issue here isn’t so much the starter as it is his experience.

That’s not a knock at Cam Robinson, the top-ranked tackle prospect in his class who was officially named Alabama’s starter Monday, but he is still only a freshman, playing at a position where any mistakes will be easy to spot.

Robinson’s nod is so rare in fact that Saban said Monday he can’t remember ever starting a true freshman at left tackle before, which speaks volumes about his potential.

Either way, with Cyrus Kouandjio struggling at times last season, expectations will be high for Robinson, forcing him to potentially grow up faster than he may have expected.


No Alabama position was more scrutinized for its performance in 2013. The Crimson Tide finished 11th nationally in pass defense, but the struggles were apparent in some of the team’s toughest games last season, including Texas A&M, LSU and Oklahoma.

With two new starters – Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones – and a predominately younger supporting cast, it’s easy to think that the issues will continue. But according to Saban who isn’t one to feign optimism, those woes from last season could very easily have helped mold those same players.

“When you look out there this year, we seem to have, even though we lost a few players, more guys that have more experience,” Saban said. “I know those were some painful times that we all had to go through, but I think that those guys are more confident and I think they can be more consistent this year.”

Until they prove themselves though, cornerback may be targeted again in 2014.

Inside Linebacker

Alabama’s inside linebackers are as talented as any on the Crimson Tide roster, but the depth and experience at the position lack unlike any other on the roster, which Saban himself has noted.

Gone is Butkus Award winner C.J. Mosley, leaving Trey DePriest as the only player with any significant experience. Reggie Ragland, a junior, will likely fill Mosley’s spot but has only seen limited action in his previous two seasons. Sophomore Reuben Foster and freshman Shaun Dion Hamilton are the backups. Because of the lack of depth, outside linebackers Dillon Lee and Ryan Anderson are also alternating between both positions at practices.

If DePriest, who is working his way back from a recent knee injury, or Ragland get injured during the season, Alabama might find itself in some trouble.


As dominant as Alabama has been over the past few seasons, there has been a recurring issue in almost all of them – the kicking game.

Cade Foster was consistent the majority of last season but missed three of his five field goal attempts on the year in a regular-season finale loss to Auburn -- a game that put Alabama out of the running for a third straight national championship.

Also missing a kick in that loss was freshman Adam Griffith. Granted the kick was from 57 yards out, but the result didn’t help any Alabama’s case, as it was returned for the game-winning touchdown as time expired.

So far this fall, Griffith has been almost perfect, connecting on 9-of-10 field goals in Alabama’s two scrimmages.

With Foster now gone, all eyes will be on Griffith to step up in the close games.

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