25 August 2009
After two well earned off days, the Crimson Tide football team headed back to practice on Tuesday afternoon. The full pads practice was a little different than what the players have been used to, as the teams turns its attention towards installing the offensive and defensive game plans.
Here's what you need to know:
The injury news is very good. All of the players who suffered minor injuries at the end of last week were cleared for full contact today. Roy Upchurch (groin), Julio Jones (ankle), Marquis Johnson (stinger), Dre Kirkpatrick (hip), and Trent Richardson (shoulder) were all full participants in today's work. Kenny Bell was at practice today, but he was in a black jersey, with the boot on his on left leg to protect his shin splints. Jeramie Griffin remains out after ACL surgery.
Some players chose to spend their off time running home for a quick "mom-cooked" meal. Some guys concentrated on school work. Coach Saban spent his Saturday evening checking out Inglorious Basterds at the movie theatre. The coaching staff made it clear to the players that resting their minds was almost as important as resting their bodies, so most players tried to spend the off time doing as little as possible. The did continue conditioning work on Monday.
The pre-season work is now complete, and the time has come to practice football for games. As such, we started seeing the defensive front seven work on drills to combat a running quarterback lining up in the shotgun - what Bama is certain to see from Tyrod Taylor and the Virginia Tech Hokies. The offense was a little more vanilla during the media viewing period, for obvious reasons.
The battle between Mark Barron and Robby Green continues to rage, and right now Barron looks like he might have a slight edge. The two guys have completely different skill sets, so it will be an interesting choice for the coaching staff to make - and with Nick Saban's involvement with the secondary, that decision will likely be his to make. It looks like Justin Woodall has his spot set, with the loser in the Barron/Green battle likely the backup at both spots. Past them, it looks like Ali Sharrief and Tyrone King would be next in the pecking order, followed by redshirt freshman Robert Lester and true freshman Rod Woodson.
It looks like Joe Pendry has settled on a first group offensive line. For the last 10 days we've seen the same group of guys working as one unit - (left to right) James Carpenter, Mike Johnson, William Vlachos, Barrett Jones, Drew Davis. We're continuing to see Alfred McCullough and Tyler Love as the second group tackles, with John Michael Boswell and Anthony Steen at guard, and David Ross at center.
For now freshman D.J. Fluker is running with the third group, and could be on the outside looking in to start the season. Considering his lack of experience as an offensive lineman - just one year of high school at the position - every day that he works gets him closer to readiness. It would not surprise me to see him make a Brad Smelley type of second half of the season impact if the line struggles.
Coach Saban indicated on Saturday that we might start seeing the two backup quarterbacks - Star Jackson and Thomas Darrah - getting more specialized work. According to the coach, Jackson excels at running the offense and making plays with his athleticism, while Darrah excels at standing in the pocket and throwing the ball around. I expect that we'll see these guys split the second unit reps for the next week, with each guy getting most of their work in the area that they excel in. If something happens to Greg McElroy in the Virginia Tech game, then we'll likely see the game situation dictate who the second quarterback is. A.J. McCarron could still factor into the discussion if both guys struggle with their specialized work.
With Upchurch back in the running back rotation, we did get a glimpse at what the likely order will be for rushing attack. It's no surprise at this point that Mark Ingram is the top guy, with Upchurch following. It looks like Trent Richardson and Terry Grant could be in a similar situation to the backup quarterbacks. Each guy has a skill set that can benefit the team in different ways. Richardson appears to be the more versatile guy, where Grant is more of a scat back type. If the Tide is looking to pound between the tackles with the third back, it will be Richardson. If they are looking to spread things out and play a speed game, it will be Grant. For now Demetrius Goode and Eddie Lacy are running in the last groups.
Coach Saban is expected to meet with the media today, and you can expect to hear some of his comments in tomorrow's practice report.