Three camp battles to watch for as the Crimson Tide opens fall practice:
The months-long assumption that Jacob Coker will win the starting job just by showing up is about to be put to the test. By all accounts, his arm strength and overall physical skills (he can tuck and run, too, from what we're hearing) are formidable. But beating out veteran Blake Sims isn't something Coker won't have to work for. First of all, if interceptions are a preseason issue for Coker, you can bet Saban won't hesitate to go with a quarterback with less of an arm who does a better job taking care of the ball. His understanding of the offense will have some catch-up work to do as well. Does Coker ultimately win the job? Probably. But don't discount the fight for it. By the way, in case you missed it, here's a clip of Coker from summer workouts that surfaced on youtube.com:
2) Weakside linebacker
Reggie Ragland is the odds-on favorite to win the job C.J. Mosley handled last year, but don't count out Reuben Foster. Neither will cover the pass with the blanket-like effectiveness of Mosley, but either should prove to be a salty replacement against the run. Crimson Cover's operatives around summer workouts have been highly complimentary of Ragland's offseason efforts. Foster is the better athlete of the two, however, and could make the decision a tough one that goes down to the late-August wire.
3) Defensive end
There are a number of candidates here who will vie for a starting job, from exciting sophomore Jonathan Allen (pictured above), to incoming JuCo transfer Jarran Reed, to younger talents like Dalvin Tomlinson, Dee Liner and Korren Kirven. D.J. Pettway could work at the Jack linebacker spot, but is an option at end when Alabama goes to a four-down line. What we know for sure is that A'Shawn Robinson will command the other end spot without challenge as the best defensive lineman on the entire roster. The other spot, however, will be a Battle Royal. Crimson Cover's best bet? We expect a two-man rotation of Reed and either Tomlinson or Allen.