With the expected departures of Ridley, Fitzpatrick, Harrison, Scarbrough, and Payne, I'm going to scout next season's Crimson Tide squad. I'll analyze the team by position groupings.
This analysis, of course, does not take into account the incoming recruiting class, so it's quite possible some true freshmen will get significant playing time like they did this season and in seasons past.
It seems obvious Tua is the starter for next year. Once he was inserted into the National Championship game on Monday, the offensive game plan opened up. The offense took vertical shots at will, which in turn opened up the running game.
The big question is this: What will Hurts do?
Does he stick around to be the back-up, a really good back-up quarterback? Or does he consider a change of position (running back?)? Or does he transfer? Mac Jones will be a sophomore and is more of pocket passer, so if Hurts does bail, they have him as back-up quarterback.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out Damien Harris is coming back for his senior year. He's the lead dog of the group, and Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs help create a solid three-headed monster of a running back corps.
Jacobs is an asset in the passing game as we saw at moments this season, and Brian Robinson is a solid runner. This position group is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the SEC and country even with Bo going pro.
The line loses senior Bozeman at center, so they need to fill that position. Everyone else should be back. Leatherwood filled in to Williams at left tackle and played well, and Lashley is another lineman who will compete for a starting position I imagine.
I'm excited as heck about this position grouping. The Tide loses Ridley, Foster, and Sims, but Ruggs, Jeudy, and Smith will only be sophomores. They are three solid starters right there, so recruits will fill in for depth along with Shavers, Marks, and Kief.
This is a good group, and as I've said every damn year, I hope they throw to the tight ends more this coming season. Forristall got injured early in the season. He'll join Hentges and Smith.
Payne played outstanding down the stretch, and Hand played well too. They both are gone.
Thankfully, Buggs is coming back. Raekwon Davis is a beast. Quinnen Williams, Jamar King, Johnny Dwight, and Phidarian Mathis all should get plenty of playing time. This is a solid group of big men.
Losing Hamilton and Evans hurts, but the cupboard is not bare at all.
The Tide will return Dylan Moses, Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis, Mack Wilson, Jamey Mosely, and Anfernee Jennings. They are all solid contributors. We'll see if Mekhi Brown and Ben Davis get some substantial work in 2018.
This is the grouping where the Tide loses a lot of talent and experience. A ton.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, are Hootie Jones are gone. They are all safeties although Minkah can probably play corner.
Tony Brown, Anthony Averett, and Levi Wallce are gone. They are the starting cornerbacks.
So the Crimson Tide has to replace its entire secondary.
I suspect Trevon Diggs will be a starter at one of the corners, and I have read about and seen good things from Shyheim Carter. And Keaton Anderson played some. I can't remember if he plays safety or corner.
Deointe Thompson stepped in admirably for Hootie Jones after an Auburn offensive lineman did a bullshit block and blew out Hootie's knee late in the Iron Bowl.
I expect Diggs (corner) and Thompson (safety) to start, but it's hard to say who will emerge as starters after that: Shyheim Carter, Keaton Anderson, Kyriq McDonald, Xavier McKinney, Daniel Wright, Nigel Knott, and Jared Mayden.
J.K. Scott graduated and will probably play in the NFL, so Alabama used a scholarship on a punter for this current recruiting class. Pappanastos had a bad game in the national championship, but overall he had a decent year. But I suspect Bulovas, a kicker on scholarship, will get the nod as starter if he works on his consistency.
From a look at the kids who have signed letters of intent (14 of them), Alabama is bringing in four defensive ends, three corners, two all-purpose running backs, one defensive tackle, one center, one wide receiver, one offensive tackle, and one punter.
As we've seen in the past, Saban will start whomever earns it.