Don’t get too caught up about who is playing what position. This is the spring and Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban experiments. And as Nick Saban has consistently cautioned: these administrative groupings are not indicative of any depth chart. That doesn’t mean fans can’t speculate—and often get it right; however, there are many more important things to watch rather than guessing the depth chart. (I know I mention these every year and it seems like every month, but this is what I try to watch in spring and fall camps. Well, when not writing about fishing trips and laptops.)
Try to judge conditioning. Watch the videos, read the recaps, listen to the players, listen to Coach Saban and the Internet chatter. Try to answer the questions: How strong are the players? How did the offseason program go? How crisp are the practices? These give us clues as to the focus and dedication of the team. If players are working hard in these areas then they are likely working hard in other areas too. If they are slacking in the weight room then they are probably slacking in studying the playbook.
Are leaders emerging? This is an important question to answer for the entire Alabama Crimson Tide, but it will be critical for a young defense. Is Dont’a Hightower the leader? What about Mark Barron? Josh Chapman? Think of leaders as middle management. Good ones hold teammates accountable and further the organizational goals. Bad ones are like Michael on the Office—they waste people’s time and muddle the direction set by upper management. Good peer leaders, to borrow from Barney Fife, nip trouble in the bud.
If the answers are positive in these areas, then fans can shift to watching what happens during the summer. Reapply these questions during fall camp. Did the players take advantage of the summer to advance in skills and understanding of the schemes? Determining this is really more art than science. You have to read between the lines and follow the chatter.
What makes these questions more important than ever is that the Alabama Crimson Tide has more than enough talent to compete for the 2010 BCS National Championship; Alabama can defend its national championship and SEC crown, but focus and commitment will determine if Alabama makes it to Glendale. In other words, this is nothing new. The same things that have always won football games are what win football games today.