08 August 2010
A hot and humid fan day has finally come to a close. The estimates put the crowd somewhere about 7,000, but by the end, it was a much smaller crowd. There were plenty of folks in line for autographs when I left Bryant-Denny. I hope you were all able to get the ones you needed.
This isn't a nxojkt practice report, so you probably won't get what you need to know. You'll have to settle for what I know - position by position - after the jump.
Obviously, Greg McElroy is the starter for the Tide, and will be until he has no eligibility remaining. AJ McCarron is likely the backup. But everyone you talk to with the Tide is careful to group McCarron and Phillip Sims in the same sentence behind McElroy.
The truth of the matter is that McCarron got all the repetitions with the second grouping. He is the clear-cut backup. However, Sims looked every bit as good with the third - especially considering Sims was planning for his high school season this time last year. This is an exceptionally talented group of players, and there will be lots of competition down the road.
Especially when you consider Blake Sims working with the fourth unit - as he did a good bit late in today's practice. Sims is listed officially as a defensive back on the 105 man roster, but he did not work with that group at all - the defense wears crimson and the offense wears white. Sims was not dressed in QB black or defense crimson, but offense white.
Mark Ingram missed today's practice to attend his grandfather's funeral in Michigan. That meant that Trent Richardson was the number one back all day. Eddie Lacy saw plenty of action with the first team - working as the Richardson to Richardson's Ingram. Lacy appears to be the third best back.
If Lacy can show that can catch out of the backfield and pick up blocks at all, he should be the guy who steps into the Roy Upchurch role that Jim McElwain indicated was so important this morning in the press conference.
Demetrius Goode was conspicuously absent from any work with the first team.
Freshman Corey Grant showed flashes late against poor competition (fourth team defense mostly). Grant is larger than you'd expect from a guy as quick as he is.
Everyone who plays tight end got plenty of action with the first units today. Brad Smelley, Michael Williams, and even Undra Billingsley saw reps at the H. Chris Underwood and Williams worked primarily at the TE position on the line.
Billingsley clearly worked with the defensive linemen in the first half of practice, but a large guy who was dressed in a white 86 was with the first unit offense in the second half of practice. If he works limited action in both positions, he could clearly play both ways. He's a wide body, and could be used in short yardage situations as well.
There were very few surprises here. Except for the number of first unit opportunities for walk on Nick Williams (son of Tide coach Bobby Williams). True freshman DeAndrew White saw similar opportunities.
Marquis Maze and Brandon Gibson have added considerable bulk. Keiwone Malone had a great one handed catch in warm-ups, but is expected to redshirt (especially since he shares a number with Kenny Bell).
No real changes on the offensive line. The first unit is pretty much set with James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, William Vlachos, Barrett Jones, and DJ Fluker (from left to right). This group held their own in match ups with the first team offensive line.
No real changes in the second and third groupings for practice today. Aire Kouandjio looked especially nimble for a guy who goes 335.
Like Kirby Smart noted in the morning press conference, the defensive line is deep on talent and light on experience. The first unit appears to be set - with the exception of Marcell Dareus's NCAA status. Dareus, Josh Chapman and Luther Davis would be our starting three if there are no NCAA troubles.
The second team features Damion Square, Kerry Murphy and Undra Billingsley. Square seems poised to take Dareus's spot if there is a suspension looming. Brandon Moore is still working with the third unit for now, but is pushing hard.
Dont'a Hightower is the guy. He's going to be this year's Rolondo McClain. He's strong, fast, healed and hungry. The first guy who steps into a gap that is covered by Hightower is going to get hit - and hard. Along with Hightower in the first grouping was Jerrrell Harris at the sam, Nico Johnson at the will, and Courtney Upshaw at the jack.
Petey Smith looks like a full-fledged college linebacker. He's big, strong and quick. He's a touch short - at only 6'1" - but he tips the scales at 260 pounds. He clearly used the fall semester in the weight room well.
The most impressive thing about Smith is that he stood next to and learned from Hightower the entire practice (see the photo). He's learning from the best.
When they worked in groups of four, the first group included Mark Barron and Robert Lester at safety and Dre Kirkpatrick and BJ Scott at corner. The second group was Wes Neighbors and Nick Perry at safety, with Kyle Pennington and Phelon Jones. The third group had Jarrick Williams and Will Lowery at safety and DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton.
However, when the Tide went to nickel, Milliner stepped into that "star" role that saw Javier Arenas a year ago. When Bama featured six defensive backs, more often than not, Will Lowery stepped in as the sixth.
DeQuan Menzie, still recovering from an Achilles tear, was limited in action today - although when he did play, he didn't seem limited. Look for Menzie to make strides towards those first groupings soon.
Not a lot to report today - there were no punts or field goal attempts. However, Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley did kickoff and Foster was the clear leader here, booming most of his kicks inside the five - and many of them into the end zone. He's clearly got the bigger leg of the two and likely is the opening day kickoff specialist.
Everybody and their brother got a chance to "return" kickoffs today (that means trot them out at half speed). The first grouping was Trent Richardson and BJ Scott, but Julio Jones, DeMarcus Milliner, DeAndrew White, Corey Grant and Blake Sims all saw chances.
Bama will practice again throughout the week, and we'll have our normal reports.
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