'Opportunity' key theme as Crimson Tide open spring slate

Alabama opened practice Monday without star edge rusher Dallas Turner and reserve linebacker Deontae Lawson, who will miss all of the spring as they recover from surgeries.

Turner, a Freshman All-American in 2021, had four sacks and eight tackles for loss last season. His role could expand after Will Anderson Jr., his fellow edge rusher the past two years, left for the NFL, where he's expected to be a top-10 pick.

Coach Nick Saban said there "shouldn't be any issues for [Turner and Lawson] moving forward." He didn't say what the surgeries were for.

Reserve running back Roydell Williams, who ran for 250 yards and four touchdowns last season, and backup defensive back DeVonta Smith, who appeared in 10 games primarily on special teams, are also out recovering from unspecified injuries. But Saban said both "will probably be able to return at some point during spring practice."

Saban also announced that freshman defensive back Tony Mitchell has been suspended from the team as it gathers more information on his arrest last week for possession of marijuana with intent to sell and/or deliver. Mitchell's passenger, identified as Christopher Lewis, was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell and/or deliver as well as carrying a concealed firearm without a permit.

"Everybody's got an opportunity to make choices and decisions," Saban said of Mitchell. "There's no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Speaking to reporters for the first time since Alabama beat Kansas State in the AllState Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve, Saban focused on how "everybody has an opportunity to compete for a position."

And no place is the spotlight brighter than at quarterback, where Heisman Trophy winner and two-year starter Bryce Young is gone, having left school early to enter the NFL draft, where he's vying to become the No. 1 pick.

What's more, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien left to rejoin the New England Patriots. He was replaced by former Notre Dame OC Tommy Rees.

Saban pointed out that among the four players vying for time at the QB position, none has a significant amount of experience.

Jalen Milroe, a former four-star prospect, was Young's primary backup last season but played sparingly, starting one game when Young was injured. He finished with 297 yards passing and 263 yards rushing.

Ty Simpson, a true freshman and former four-star prospect, was third on the depth chart. Saban said that despite a lack of reps, "[Simpson] made significant progress."

"[He] is also someone that we think has developed and made a lot of improvement and has a lot of potential to be a pretty good player," he added. "And then we got two young freshmen [top-10 prospects Dylan Lonergan and Eli Holstein] that probably have a long way to go, but they're eager to learn and they're eager to try to improve and get a better understanding of what we need to do.

"But development at that position is really going to be a critical thing for our team this year because I like the players that we have around them."

Alabama is scheduled to open the season at home against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 2. The following week, the Crimson Tide will host Texas.