Nick Saban calls Alabama a 'work in progress' as Tide open spring camp

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama returned to the football field Friday afternoon for the start of spring practice without three key starters from last season's national championship run.

Coach Nick Saban announced that defensive end Jonathan Allen, left tackle Cam Robinson and safety Eddie Jackson will "have a difficult time" healing before the end of spring practice.

Allen, who led the team with 12 sacks last season, and Robinson are out recovering from shoulder injuries. Jackson, who led the team with six interceptions, is out with a leg injury.

Alabama has a number of questions to answer this spring, including who will emerge at quarterback, how the running game will look with Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry gone, and how the defense will change now that longtime defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has moved on to become the head coach at Georgia.

Saban, who said he was pleased with the progress players made during the offseason conditioning program, called the team a "work in progress."

"This is not something that just happens," he said. "Team chemistry last year happened over time."

Alabama will take the next week off for spring break and return to the practice field on Monday, March 21.