By Quinne Lowe @sports_qa on May 23, 2014
Elite programs like Alabama don't rebuild; they just reload and after losing significant players from what many Crimson Tide fans would consider a disappointing 2013 season, it will be important for head coach Nick Saban to find players to step up and make 2014 a success. The following five guys may have the biggest shoes to fill as they try to replace players who were key to the program's dominance in the past.
White makes this list not because there is a lack of talent at wide receiver for the Crimson Tide, but because they will be looking to replace the leadership of the departed Kevin Norwood. With a new quarterback it will be important for him to be able to depend on his receivers to make the transition a smooth one, and White, being one of two seniors, has to show he can be counted on.
Leon Brown showed his versatility in his first season in Tuscaloosa by stepping in at the guard position due to injuries, but tackle is his natural position. During spring practice he showed the ability to play the left tackle position and held off the uber-talented freshman Cam Robinson. If this continues in the fall Alabama will at least not have to worry about who's blocking the new quarterback's blindside.
Alabama has a "wait your turn" mentality due to its great depth, and it's now the senior out of Ohio's turn to continue the trend of high performing linebacker play for the Crimson Tide. Leading the position in tackles with 65, DePriest will be called on to set the tone for an inexperienced group. After leading the white squad in tackles with seven, he looks ready to take that next big step which could improve his draft stock.
After finishing second on the team in tackles last season with 70, there is even more pressure on Collins to perform at a high level with the departure of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri. The ability and talent is there, but defensive coordinator Kirby Smart needs to be able to depend on the junior to do the little things like game preparation and command the respect of his fellow defensive backs like Clinton-Dix and Sincere were able to.
The success or failure in 2014 for Alabama is under center at quarterback. AJ McCarron is gone and coach Saban is looking for his next championship QB. Between he and Blake Sims, it seemed as if Cooper Bateman had a better grasp of the offense and thus performed better in the spring game. If Bama wants to avoid having teams load eight in the box to stop the run game, Bateman must continue to improve his play.
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