Alabama began spring football practice Friday afternoon without several players who have moved on to the NFL and several more who are nursing injuries.
Coach Nick Saban, who earned his sixth national championship with the Crimson Tide via a 52-24 dismantling of Ohio State in January's title game of the four-team playoff, said Friday evening that junior receiver John Metchie, redshirt junior right guard Emil Ekiyor, fifth-year senior defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis and sophomore defensive back Malachi Moore will be sidelined in the weeks ahead. All four return starting experience from last season's 13-0 team.
"They're not really expected to participate a whole lot in practice because of previous injuries that they've had," Saban said on a Zoom call. "They were things that needed to be fixed from the season, and we want to focus on getting those guys well. Those guys have played a lot of good football around here and really don't have anything to prove here in the spring.
"It would be better for us if we could give their reps to someone else and let them develop."
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Pierce Quick, who appeared in three games last season and played 12 total snaps, also will be out, but Saban said redshirt sophomore running back Trey Sanders is improving despite being far from 100%. Sanders injured a foot before the 2019 season began and had his 2020 season derailed by a hip injury from an auto accident.
Of course, all eyes this spring will be on sophomore quarterback Bryce Young. The 6-foot, 194-pounder from Pasadena, California, completed 13 of 22 passes last season for 156 yards and a touchdown while backing up Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones.
"We didn't play him as much as we wanted or would have liked to," Saban said. "We were playing 10 SEC games and didn't have the games where we could sort of work him into more."
Saban added that Young had a good first practice and looked more comfortable compared to last fall.