27 August 2010
The Alabama football team began game preparations for San Jose State during Friday's practice. With the pre-season over, the Tide had a scout team for the first time during today's practice in shells.
Here's what you need to know:
Bama is healthy. With the exception of Jeramie Griffin, who was not cleared to participate prior to the beginning of camp, the Tide has been fortunate with injuries this fall. There have been a few players that have missed some time, but all of them were cleared for contact during today's practice.
The most notable of those is Kendall Kelly. He was working with the scout team at safety, but the simple fact that he was out there for the second consecutive day is good news. He participated in the first practice of fall camp, and had not been cleared to participate again until yesterday with "heat related issues." With a clean bill of health from the doctors, he was able to go on back-to-back days, indicated that those issues are likely behind him. He's still three weeks behind everyone else, which is why he was likely working with the scout team, but it is good news to simply have him back at practice.
The news is also good for DeMarcus Milliner. He missed a week and a half with a badly sprained ankle, but for the second consecutive day he worked with the first group at conrnerback. I don't think he's actually passed BJ Scott on the depth chart that will likely be officially released on Monday, but he is a strong candidate to work his way into the mix for the money and star positions in the nickel and dime packages. His work with the first unit is likely an indication that the staff would like to maximize his reps. Don't be shocked to see this continue tomorrow, but Scott will probably be back with the first group on Monday.
The first unit offensive line remained the same for the second consecutive day, with DJ Fluker returning to the first unit at right tackle. I still think it's possible that we'll see the grouping with Alfred McCullough at right guard and Barrett Jones at right tackle at times this season, but Fluker is still the Tide's best option as a run blocker on the right side. He's a big talent, and the more experience he can get, the better he'll ultimately be. If teams are having success blitzing off of the right side, the unit that practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday is an option. That type of forward thinking is one of this coaching staff's strengths.
The wide receiver rotation isn't set yet, but the scout team participants might have given us an indication of which players might be on the outside looking in. Both of Bama's true freshman wide receivers - DeAndrew White and Keiwone Malone - were working with the scout team today, which could signal that they are both headed for redshirts. It's way too early to put that label on any of the true freshmen, but it's safe to say that they are not likel to be a part of the primary rotation in week one. We all know that Julio Jones, Marquis Maze, and Darius Hanks will be the top three. How the rest of the rotation sets up is still in question, though. The guys that are in that battle are Brandon Gibson, Earl Alexander, Kevin Norwood, and Kenny Bell.
Coach Saban indicated yesterday that we will see A.J. McCarron in every game this season. No, he didn't say that the Tide was going to a two-quarterback system. Instead, the Coach indicated that McCarron will be the holder on the Tide's placekicks. Interestingly enough, it looks like Greg McElroy will be his backup. So the folks who argued that McCarron would beat out McElroy this fall can claim that they were right, at least as it relates to the holder position. With quarterbacks at the position, instead of PJ Fitzgerald, Bama might have a few more options on fakes this year.
There is still no word on the eligibility of Marcell Dareus, but it is important to remember that Bama did not receive word on the eligibility of Julio Jones and Mark Ingram until Wednesday of game week last year. If we don't hear anything prior to kickoff on next Saturday, expect the staff to be conservative and hold him out. But I expect we'll hear something by Wednesday on all of the guys across the country who are involved in the whole agent party in Miami debacle.
Saturday's practice will be big, as is will be the last opportunity for guys to make a move before the release of the depth chart on Monday. Coach Saban has not indicated hesitancy in the past to litter the initial depth chart with a lot of positions with the word "or" listed next to them. Don't be surprised to see that at safety and possibly both the will and sam linebacker spots. Of course, just because the depth chart looks a certain way on Monday doesn't mean the staff is stuck with that on Saturday. With the San Jose State game likely to see a lot of guys play, the depth chart on Monday of the Penn State game is likely to be a little more telling.
Bama will work again on Saturday afternoon before taking Sunday off. We'll have our normal report.
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