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March 21, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Everywhere AJ McCarron turns, there is a new face.
A new center snaps him the ball, and when he turns, a new running back is there to take it from him. To his left and right, a new crop of wide receivers looks to fill a void at that position.
And overseeing it all is a new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach in Doug Nussmeier.
Coming off a BCS National Championship in his first season as a starter, McCarron already has the experience of a veteran. And he knows he'll need it.
"I had to (be a leader) last year midway through the year and (now) I'm one of the older guys, or as we say on the team, old heads on the offense," McCarron said. "I have to push other guys and I have to be more vocal. That's really it."
The weapons Nussmeier and McCarron have to work with this spring include several receivers who got limited playing time last year, including Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood and Christion Jones. The rest are even less experienced, as is the talent on hand to replace Brad Smelley at tight end.
"We're definitely going to have to have some guys step up. I feel like we have a really good group of guys, not just on the field, but off the field," McCarron said. "I feel like everybody has a good head on their shoulders and this group of receivers seems to be a little closer together, which is definitely a good thing."
In the backfield, Alabama began full-pad practices Wednesday without its most experienced rusher in Eddie Lacy, who is recovering from toe surgery. Another reserve, Blake Sims, is out for now with a hip injury, leaving Jalston Fowler, Dee Hart and freshman T.J. Yeldon. As for the receiving corps, McCarron is confident in the youngsters and already has taken steps to build more of a chemsitry with them.
"You definitely start building it now. I mean, on our off days like when we were doing the fourth quarter (conditioning program), I know myself and five or six receivers would go out there and run routes to get our timing down," McCarron said. "It definitely starts now and take it during the summer and build on it a little bit more."
McCarron said Nussmeier is similar in his coaching style to former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain. Nussmeier and McElwain have worked together in the past, and McElwain recommended Nussmeier for the role after taking the head coaching job at Colorado State.
"He's a real personal coach. He's just like coach Mac to me," McCarron said. "We don't only have a relationship on the field, but we talk to each other on the weekends. If he gets bored, he likes to call me. I found that out; and we'll just talk."
After sustaining a hip dislocation in the BCS National Championship Game only about 10 weeks ago, linebacker C.J. Mosley said he is able to participate fully in spring practices.
"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent, but I'm getting there every day," Mosley said. "Rehab has been going pretty well. I rehabbed over spring break to be ready for spring practice, so overall I feel pretty good running around."
Mosley and fellow inside linebacker Nico Johnson are UA's most experienced linebackers on hand for spring drills. Mosley said no surgery was required to fix the injury.
Three players were withheld from contact for injury reasons as UA held its first practice in full pads Wednesday: Offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio (knee), and running backs Blake Sims (hip) and Eddie Lacy (toe). ... Offensive lineman Chance Warmack said he spent spring break in his hometown of Atlanta rehabilitating a mild groin injury that limited him in UA's spring practice opener March 9. Warmack said he feels completely healthy this week. ... Former players Alex Watkins and Jerrell Harris were among Wednesday practice visitors. ... UA resumes practice Friday.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.