13 April 2010
The final week of the 2010 spring football practice began today, with Alabama working in full pads. The Tide will practice one more time on Thursday at their practice facility before heading over to Bryant-Denny Stadium for Saturday's A-Day Game.
Here's what you need to know:
The injury situation continues to improve. Nico Johnson was cleared for contact today after missing all of last week with a sprained knee. The fact that he is able to come back this quickly obviously means that the injury was not serious, and unless he has a setback, we should see him on A-Day.
Chad Lindsay missed the scrimmage on Saturday, but was cleared for contact again. He's one of the the Tide's new players, so having the opportunity to play in front of a big crowd on A-Day will be huge for him.
William Vlachos and Milton Talbert were the only two guys in black jerseys, and they've been in black all spring. Vlachos is out after having had foot surgery, and Talbert has a bad shoulder. Talbert does continue to work in individual drills.
There were rumors all day that DeMarcus Milliner had injured a foot in the scrimmage, but he was practicing normally today. If he was in a boot after the weekend, it must have been for precaution.
Defensive tackle Nick Gentry was not at practice today, and as of yet there has been no reason given.
After Brandon Gibson's big day at receiver during Saturday's scrimmage the staff left him at receiver for today's practice. We had been seeing him rotate with Kendall Kelly at the safety position, but Kelly remained on defense today.
The first units on both sides of the ball appear to be intact from what we were seeing all last week, with the exception of Nico Johnson back working with the first group. Individual drills can sometimes be misleading, but the consistency of the order of some guys makes things look pretty clear.
This is a big week for a lot of guys as they battle for positioning for the A-Day rosters. The staff has still not officially decided on the format for the rosters, but I'm guessing that we'll see the teams drawn up organizationally, rather than by a draft. That means your spot on the organizational chart determines what team you are on.
It is important to understand that difference between an organizational chart and a depth chart. I know that I joke about it a lot, but there is a real difference. A true depth chart sets what would be the order in which guys play in a game. An organizational chart is used to set up different personnel groupings, and is also used to get some guys extra repetitions when needed. There will likely be some guys placed on the team that contains the "first team" on Saturday that are being placed there for organizational reasons, rather than because they are truly first team. This will be especially prominent at positions like wide receiver where there is typically a lot of in game rotation.
An example of this could be a guy like Damion Square getting placed with the "first team" defense on Saturday. He's been running with the second unit - behind Luther Davis - all spring, but is likely to be on the Tide's key members of the rabbit rusher package. If the staff wants to utilize the rabbit rushers on Saturday, then Square would have to be placed with the first team. If that happens, in order to give the second team line more balance, we would likely see Luther Davis be placed there, despite the fact that he would likely be listed first team on a true depth chart.
It will also be very interesting to see the placement of the quarterbacks. We know that Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron are numbers one and two, but we don't know exactly where Phillip Sims and Star Jackson rank right now. And, due to the nature of an organizational chart, we might not know on Saturday. It could be that the staff simply places the #3 guy behind McElroy, and the #4 guy behind McCarron. But what if the staff wants to see Sims work with the first offensive line? Or to get Star Jackson extra work with first group of receivers? That could cause the staff to flip the depth chart in order to service the organizational chart.
Like spring training baseball games, it is very important to remember that A-Day is a practice. While it is the one practice that we all get to watch, and television might make it seem like more, it is the 15th and final practice of the spring. The coaches will use it as a practice in order to answer questions that they might have, and to get guys repetitions in specific situations, even if that blurs the line between first and second team.
The good news is that things are very quiet right now. There haven't been any serious injuries during the spring. We're not hearing rampant rumors of guys considering a transfer due to their placement on the depth chart. We're not seeing the police blotter include football players. The Robby Green situation is a disappointment, but otherwise, the only negative we've seen is a couple of guys being held back because of some team set academic goals that they aren't meeting.
The fact that the team is healthy after 13 practices, including two scrimmages, is great news. The fact that Coach Saban seems to be in a good mood is even better news. There are still some questions to be answered, and some holes on the depth chart need to be filled.
But with just two practices remaining, this appears to have been an enormously successful spring practice.
Bama will go again on Thursday, and I expect it to be in shells. We'll have our normal report.
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