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TRips: Three for the O this week

With Lacy out, Fowler moves to the forefront.

The second full week of spring football practice at the University of Alabama will be capped Saturday by the first of three scrimmages between now and A-Day on April 14.

A year ago, competition between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims at the quarterback position dominated discussion. A year later, with McCarron entrenched as the starter, the spring to-do list has shifted elsewhere. With that in mind, here are three areas of the Alabama offense that we'll learn more about in the coming weeks.

Running back
The candidates: 42 Eddie Lacy, 45 Jalston Fowler; 1 Dee Hart; 4 T.J. Yeldon; 18 Blake Sims.
One guy you can feel good about: With Lacy recovering from off-season toe surgery and Sims sidelined by injury, Fowler represents the extent of game experience for the three backs who will be featured in Saturday's scrimmage. The junior averaged 6.9 yards per carry a season ago and scored four touchdowns.
Keep an eye on: For a variety of reasons, it will be interesting to see how Hart and Yeldon respond in scrimmage situations. After missing the 2011 season with a knee injury, we'll learn how far Hart, who took part in spring drills a year ago, has come in his recovery. For Yeldon, the adjustment from high school to college goes up a notch or two this week.
The question: Who in this group can pick up the blitz and catch a pass? While we've seen Lacy do both, the next three Saturdays will give us a better idea of where Fowler, Hart and Yeldon are as pass blockers and receivers.

Wide receiver
The candidates: 7 Kenny Bell; 83 Kevin Norwood; 2 DeAndrew White; 22 Christion Jones; 80 Marvin Shinn; 81 Danny Woodson; 9 Amari Cooper; 5 Chris Black.
One guy you can feel good about: We'll go with two guys from the 2009 recruiting class, Bell and Norwood. Bell's 17 receptions in 2011 were the most by a returning receiver, while Norwood was the best receiver on the field in UA's BCS Championship game win over LSU. During the early stages of spring drills, Bell and Norwood were the undisputed leaders of this group.
Keep an eye on: Jones can be used in a number of ways but his biggest contribution will likely come after the catch. With his open-field ability, the sophomore can turn easy completions into big plays.
The question: Will Cooper and Black impact the depth chart as freshman? Based on comments by their teammates and head coach, the duo have made positive initial impressions, so it wouldn't be a reach to expect either or both to see the field in 2012.

The candidates: 76 D.J. Fluker; 71 Cyrus Kouandjio; 79 Austin Shepherd; 63 Kellen Williams.
One guy you can feel good about: Twenty-three career starts later, Fluker in no way resembles the near 400-pound freshman who showed up in Tuscaloosa in 2009. That guy struggled to finish practices. This guy finishes defensive linemen with authority.
Keep an eye on: To say the bar has been placed high for Kouandjio would be an understatement. With Barrett Jones moving to center, Kouandjio's play will be the key for the offensive line in 2012.
The question: What happens if Kouandjio goes down? Williams is being developed as a swing guy, similar to Alfred McCullough. However, if the situation required a long-term solution, Jones could move back out to tackle, with Ryan Kelly stepping in at center.

Also see: TRips: Three for the D this week

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