26 August 2009
The Alabama football team worked in full pads today in what should be the final "fundamentals" practice prior to the beginning of the season. According to Coach Saban, the team has been spending its practice time this week working on correcting mistakes made during the scrimmage on Saturday. Tomorrow, on the other hand, we'll see the Tide switch its focus to Virginia Tech. There has been some work done on basic things that Tech likes to runs, but since the open of fall camp, the focus has been squarely on improving Alabama.
Here's what you need to know:
Terrence Cody was absent from today's practice. The exact details are unknown at this point, but indications are that the absence was excused. As expected, Josh Chapman got work with the first unit in his place, with Nick Gentry and Darrington Sentimore getting reps with the second unit - though Gentry also spent some time with the defensive ends.
Kenny Bell is still in a black jersey to protect his shin splints. Coach Saban indicated that he would likely wear a protective boot for "at least a week", so this is no surprise. It should be interesting to see if he's out of the boot, and the black, once "game" practice starts tomorrow.
Julio Jones has heavy tape on his left ankle, but he has been cleared for full contact. He doesn't appear to be favoring the ankle when running either. That's not a shock, considering he played most of last season with three injuries severe enough to require surgery, and no one noticed.
Trent Richardson was working with his normal white jersey, which is what we saw yesterday. Coach Saban indicated that he wore black after the media viewing period so that they could limit his contact to protect a shoulder strain. We'll let you know if he did the same thing today once we hear.
Other than Jeramie Griffin, everyone else was ready to go, and practiced at full tilt today.
D.J. Fluker has starting getting more reps with the second unit, both at right and left tackle. He had been working with the third group, but it looks like the staff is now trying to give him more opportunities. He's still not made up the ground on Tyler Love and Alfred McCullough, but the gap is closing.
Kevin Norwood continues to get good solid time in the wide receiver repetitions, as he looks to be the first of the freshmen receivers to hit the field. It looks like the top three guys are still Julio Jones, Marquis Maze, and Darius Hanks. Mike McCoy is right behind Hanks, as Bama looks like they have a four man rotation set. Brandon Gibson and Earl Alexander are the next two, followed by Norwood, and then Michael Bowman and Kendall Kelly.
The coaching staff decided to pull the redshirt off of Brad Smelley late after six games last season, because they felt he could make a significant impact. That's something that Bowman, Kelly, and Bell need to keep in mind if they aren't in the rotation on Sept. 5. These guys all appear to have a tremendous amount of raw talent, but they all need to work on the details that really separate playing at the college level from playing in high school.
Mark Barron is working ahead of Robby Green in individual drills, as the battle for the safety opposite Justin Woodall continues to go strong. While I imagine the coaching staff would like to settle on one player, this could also be a game specific type of decision. With Tyrod Taylor being much more of a rushing threat than a passing threat, Barron's skills are more well matched to stopping the Virginia Tech offense. When the Tide faces a more pro-style quarterback (think Jevan Sneed at Ole Miss), we could see Green's coverage skills get the nod.
Dre Kirkpatrick is making the most of being back at practice and cleared for contact. He is continuing to really push Marquis Johnson for the third corner spot, though Johnson does appear to be ahead at this point. That could certainly change any day, as Kirkpatrick is quickly becoming a favorite of Coach Saban and Coach Smart.
Ed Stinson worked with the jack linebackers today, after spending almost all of the fall with the sams. He is working at the back of the jack group, which could be an indication that he is destined for a redshirt. Coach Saban indicated that the decision on redshirting guys would have to come soon, and it looks like that might have happened with Stinson. If his ultimate destination is the jack spot, it makes much more sense to have him spend his redshirt year there.
A guy that will force the coaches into a tough decision is Jonathan Atchison. He is working with the third group at the sam linebacker - behind Cory Reamer and Chavis Williams - but he continues to look fantastic. His biggest contribution in 2009 is likely to be on special teams, and the coach will have to decide if they want to use a year of eligibility on special teams work. I'm thinking they will, and Atchison will have the same type of impact on the kick coverage teams that Courtney Upshaw had in 2008.
Information will likely start getting thin once the team begins game specific work for Virginia Tech tomorrow. While we do want to continue to give you good, solid information, we also want to make certain that we aren't giving Virginia Tech anything that they don't need to know. Practice is scheduled for 3:30 tomorrow afternoon, and we'll have a report up at the normal time.