The 2017 Alabama football spring game, known commonly and promoted as A-Day around Tuscaloosa, is being held Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Alabama spring game is indeed a scrimmage with a running clock except for the last four minutes of each half. It's Crimson vs. White with a thin playbook, but it's Alabama football.
There's also a lot of 10-year anniversary stuff going on with coach Nick Saban, so expect a spectacle. He usually is an entertaining watch as he barks out scrimmage critiques in an exquisite April suit on the field of play. There will be former players on hand, and plenty of talk about the Tide's 2017 title outlook.
How to watch
Date: Saturday, April 22
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium -- Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Players to watch
Offense -- QB Jalen Hurts: The talk of Tuscaloosa all spring has been the projections for Year 2 with reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones are gifted early enrollees with enough ability to start if needed, but if Hurts has improved since we saw him last, it's hard to imagine him losing his spot as the team's starter going into 2017.
Recently, when Saban has been picking between quarterbacks, he takes the competition right into the first game of the season and sometimes right up through the first SEC game -- but rarely further. Another interesting wrinkle to the quarterback discussion at Alabama is the absence of Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, the arrival of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and what, if anything, might change in terms of play-calling, scheme or (and this is the big one for a lot of Tide fans) Hurts' development.
Hurts saw his first action coming off the bench for Blake Barnett, then won the job permanently while evolving into one of the SEC's most dangerous individual offensive threats. He's a gifted runner, so much so that even slight improvements in his passing game will go a long way in opening up opposing defenses and allowing the ground game and Tide's offense, in general, to thrive.
Defense -- DL Da'Ron Payne: Alabama's depth along the defensive line has been a mainstay in college football for the last couple of years. Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson's exit opened the door for Jonathan Allen, and now Allen's departure (along with Dalvin Tomlinson and edge rusher Tim Williams) has thrust Da'Ron Payne into the spotlight. No one is expecting Alabama's defense to take a step back, but the onus for maintaining dominance will be on the players up front tasked with replacing a lot of juniors and seniors that have left the program in the last two years.
At 6-foot-2 and 315 pounds, Payne has been a physical force that Alabama's staff first unleashed in doses during his freshman season. There aren't a ton of gaudy stats because Payne causes the kind of damage to an offensive line's interior that can free up other players -- linebackers and edge rushers -- to make big plays. Payne is a punishing player set to emerge as a superstar in 2017, and that starts with showing off against his teammates on Saturday.
Talented freshman running backs on display: Bo Scarbrough has been limited through spring practice while recovering from the injury suffered in the title game loss to Clemson, and both Damien Harris and B.J. Emmons have been dealing with foot injuries that could keep them sidelined for a majority of Saturday's action. With Josh Jacobs as the only healthy returning running back, it's expected that Tide fans will get plenty of opportunities to watch early enrollee freshmen Najee Harris and Brian Robinson.
Harris, in particular, will draw attention as this is the first time he's been on a national stage since committing to the Tide as the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2017 recruiting class. The injuries elsewhere at running back have led to both Harris and Robinson (a four-star recruit coming out of high school just a few months ago) getting a lot of action in scrimmages; work that's been good for each of them in their development.
Spring game attendance counts: In general, I think spring game attendance counts are a little silly, but people like them and so it's a thing. As of last Saturday, here's what the leaderboard looked like, via Kevin McGuire.
Top 10 spring crowds:— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) April 17, 2017
1 OSU 80134
2 Neb 78312
3 Cle 60000
4 UM 57418
5 UF 48000
6 Aub 46331
7 OU 43723
8 UK 37172
9 FSU 26649
10 MSU 25000