Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SEC [Print without images]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Opening camp: Alabama

By Chris Low

Schedule: The Crimson Tide will open preseason practice on Friday with a pair of practices at 10:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET. All practices are closed to the public with the exception of Fan Day on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The first day in full pads is set for Tuesday.

On the mend: Freshman running back Derrick Henry (fractured fibula) and junior outside linebacker/defensive end Xzavier Dickson (patellar tendon) are on track to be 100 percent by the opening game following surgeries this spring, Alabama coach Nick Saban said earlier this month. Others who were held out of contact this spring and should be ready to go include linebacker Trey DePriest (foot), running back Jalston Fowler (knee), cornerback John Fulton (toe) and receiver Kevin Norwood (toe).

Key battle: Locking in the right combinations in the secondary will be a priority on defense, especially with Alabama playing as much nickel and dime as it does and facing Texas A&M so early in the season. The big loss was cornerback Dee Milliner. Promising sophomore Geno Smith will battle with Fulton for the vacant cornerback job opposite Deion Belue. Junior Ha Ha Clinton-Dix returns as one of the top safeties in the league, but junior Vinnie Sunseri, senior Nick Perry and sophomore Landon Collins will be jockeying for that other safety spot.

Of note: Alabama is the only team in the SEC that returns a quarterback (AJ McCarron) who passed for 30 touchdowns, a running back (T.J. Yeldon) who rushed for more than 10 touchdowns and a receiver (Amari Cooper) who caught more than 10 touchdown passes.

Predicted order of finish: Picked first in the West and also picked to win the SEC championship at SEC media days.

They said it: “Last year, it was in the back of our heads that we had to set a standard, and I think we did. This year, we have to reset that standard with different guys. It’s a tough road, but I think we can do it.” – Alabama offensive guard Anthony Steen