06 August 2010
After a morning practice that saw no injuries, the Alabama football team practiced again at 7:30 on Thursday night. Both practices were split squad, with the guys who didn't go this morning going tonight. So we got our first look at the impressive group of incoming freshmen, as well as new looks at the guys who enrolled in January.
Here's what you need to know:
There were two guys noticeably absent - Jeramie Griffin and Harrison Jones.
The University has not issued a statement on either guy, and missing a practice isn't a reason to jump to immediate conclusions. Griffin has had experience, albeit limited, but is likely the #5 guy at the running back position. This would have been Jones' first practice, so it is odd that he wasn't there.
The noticeable attendee was Blake Sims. Bama got work from the NCAA Clearinghouse between practices that Sims was good to go, and he worked with the safeties.
Sims being cleared means that Bama, by numbers, is one over the NCAA limit of 85 scholarships. Is that why we didn't see Griffin or Jones? As I posted in this morning's practice report, Wes Neighbors could be in line for playing time with Bama's lack of depth at safety. If he plays, as a Bryant Scholarship holder, he has to count towards the numbers. So is that why we didn't see Griffin or Jones?
Those questions should have an answer of some kind after tomorrow's practice.
One thing quickly jumped out at me during tonight's practice that had not during the offseason, or during the morning practice. Kirby Smart coaching the inside linebackers adds the huge benefit of those guys getting expert coaching in coverage skills. The better the Bama linebackers are at coverage, the more Nick Saban and Smart can disguise their blitz packages.
Kendall Kelly was working at safety, and has dropped the #81 for the #26. I said during the spring that I woudn't think that his move was permanent until he wore a traditional defensive back number. At this point I think it's safe to say that this move is more permanent than before. It still wouldn't surprise me to see him end up back on offense, especially if the young guys pick things up quickly.
With Griffin out, Mike Marrow was back working with the running backs. He spent the spring working with the H-backs, after spending last fall in the backfield. He brings a different skill-set to the table than every other Bama back, so if Griffin is not back on the practice field soon, he could take over whatever role the staff had in mind for Griffin.
The big thing from this particular practice is the new guys, though. So here's a run down on them:
Corey Grant - #25
Two things jump out immediately:
1)He's much bigger than I anticipated. No one is going to confuse him for Trent Richardson, but for a guy who is known for speed, he's not small.
2)He is explosive. He has a quick first step, and just gets faster from there.
He is working fully at running back right now, though some folks think he could end up at receiver. His speed is elite, and that could be a ticket for playing time, as he's a totally different type of runner than anyone else Bama has at the position.
Alfy Hill - #13
As expected, he started out with the outside linebackers. During the media viewing period they didn't separate jacks from sams, but he looks to be a jack right now. Like most freshmen - especially those that play on the line of scrimmage - he needs to add weight. But he looks very fluid and athletic, and is clearly a great athlete.
Bama's got great depth at this position, which will make playing as a freshman difficult. He's going to be a fan favorite, though, simply because he looks the part. Expect to hear a lot of folks rave about him early.
Adrian Hubbard - #42
Speaking of looking the part! This kid is a full 6'6 or 6'7 and has a huge frame. Glenn Harbin was the same way coming in, but Harbin simply never moved like Hubbard does. Harbin has spent his career as a tweener, but I don't think that'll happen with Hubbard.
Hubbard has the potential to grow into 260 lbs or so, and if he can maintain his athleticism at that weight, could be the answer to Bama's lack of a true jack linebacker. He obviously won't do that this year, but he will be a terror once he fills out.
He and Alfy Hill will probably spend their entire careers in a battle for both playing time and fan adoration. It's not tough to think a couple of years in the future at the idea of these guys bookending the rabbit rusher package.
Brandon Ivory - #62
Someone on the staff has a sense of humor in giving Ivory the number worn by Terrence Cody. He's every bit of the 330 that they list him at, so he's not anywhere close to as big as Cody was, but he is a big kid. He also looks to have great feet.
That is always a big obstacle for really big guys, but it's also what made Cody a two-time All-American. If Bama were thin at nose guard, I'd say that he might get early playing time. He just doesn't look like a freshman.
Thankfully Bama is deep at nose guard, so Ivory shouldn't have to play early. I expect a huge year out of Josh Chapman, possibly even enough to see him head to the NFL early. So Ivory's development is big for the future. If he grasps things early, he could end up in a role in short yardage, though Bama has a lot of options there.
Arie Kouandjio - #59
He has started his career at right tackle, which will quickly start the recruiting savvy fans going about Kouandjio bookends. Arie's "little" brother Cyrus is among the nation's best recruits for 2011, and is expected to play left tackle. While it's great that Bama reportedly leads for his signature, Arie is on campus now and looks nothing like a true freshman.
This kid is big and lean, and looks like a tackle. There was some thought that he might end up inside, but with his wingspan, I'm guessing he stays at tackle. The biggest thing that jumped out to me is how lean he looks at the 315 lbs he is listed at. Don't mistake the word lean for "thin", though. He looks like a guy who has been through an off season training program.
He also looks really athletic. He played soccer as a youngster, and dabbled some in wrestling, and it shows in his feet. It's tough for true freshmen to play on the line, especially at tackle, so it's a bit premature to say he'll contend for playing time now. But expect to hear the same type of mid-season raves about him that we heard about D.J. Fluker in 2009.
Keiwone Malone - #7
I'm not sure how things are going to work with Malone and fellow receiver Kenny Bell wearing the same number, but I'll leave that up to the coaches to figure out. Malone is crisp in and out of his routes, and looks like a solid pass-catcher.
He needs to bulk up some, which is pretty common with high school receivers. He's had good remarks from folks who saw Bama's off-season 7 on 7 drills, but seeing a guy with his size in pre-pads practice is mostly worthless.
He's a good athlete, but until we can see how he runs in full pads, we won't know much. Still, he looks like he runs routes better than most incoming receivers, and that could be a ticket to competition for a spot in the rotation.
C.J. Mosley - #32
He looks to be up north of 230 lbs, possibly as high as 240. He also looks the part of a mike linebacker. His name has come up repeatedly in post-practice reports, and there was buzz about him around the field. Most guys don't report to campus looking like he does.
Bama has a ton of depth at the mike, especially if Dont'a Hightower ends up there. That will make breaking into the rotation virtually impossible, but this kid passes the eye test. Don't be shocked to hear him get mentioned by Coach Saban as one of the guys who impressed early.
Also don't be surprised if he's on kick coverage on September 4.
Nick Perry - #27
All eyes will be on Bama's freshmen DBs, and Perry passed that first test. He looks like a guy who is physically ready to play. He's big and athletic, and looked fluid in drills. Playing in the secondary for Nick Saban requires a ton of headiness, especially for a true freshman. Thankfully Perry is a bright kid.
Bama is very thin at safety, so the young guys will get a more serious look here than they might get other places. It's impossible to predict how well a guy will pick up the schemes, but Perry looks like a kid who could help early.
Blake Sims - #18
Go ahead and learn how to spell his name now, please. It'll save us both problems in the future. Just like Bama's freshman quarterback, he spells his last name with just one 'm'.
While he is certainly behind everyone since this was the first day he was allowed to work with the other players, this kid is clearly a super athlete. It also looks like he spent as much time in the weight room as he did studying to get qualified.
He looks nothing like the guy in his high school videos, but instead like a guy who has been working his tail off in the weight room. He doesn't look like a freshman, and with Bama thin at safety, that could get him an early look. Like Perry, he certainly passes the eye-ball test. How quickly he integrates himslef into the team and into the culture that Nick Saban has created at Alabama will determine how quickly he competes for playing time.
Brian Vogler - #84
There will be a lot of folks at fan day scractching their heads and saying "I thought Colin Peek was gone." Up close it becomes more clear that Vogler is a good bit smaller than Peek in terms of muscle mass, but the guys are similar in height. Finding tight ends in the 6'7 range that can run is a big bonus, and Brian is that.
Bama's tight ends are asked to block a ton, which is why we didn't see as much in 2009 of Brad Smelley as some of us thought we might. If he can pick up the blocking schemes and hold his own at the point of attack, he could compete for early playing time. Bama has solid depth at tight end, but his size puts him in a class with just Michael Williams.
DeAndrew White - #2
One of the first things I look for in a young receiver is how he catches the ball. And when watching White, I saw him catching with his hands every time. That's a sign of solid coaching at the high school level, and it's also a sign of a guy being ready from a fundamental standpoint to play early.
While he's not going to wow anyone with his size, he's a good bit bigger than I expected from seeing his high school videos. He has clearly not let track and field keep him from gaining a good bit of muscle mass, and he looks much further along in that standpoint than Kenny Bell did last year.
I mention Bell because both guys are pure speed guys. White has elite speed, and the fact that he looks physically more mature than Bell did in August last year could help him a ton. If he shows consistency in catching passes, and is willing to put forth the effort to carry out his blocking assignments, he can play early.
Jarrick Williams - #20
Some folks were reporting that he was up around 230 lbs. When you consider that a lot of folks think he might grow into a linebacker, it was easy to believe those early reports. Don't. He's much closer to the 210 he was listed at coming out of high school, and looks to be a safety all the way right now. Bama is certainly not in any position to be moving guys away from the safety position, so it's a good thing.
Much like Hill and Hubbard will be linked throughout their careers, look for Williams and Perry to be linked. They look very similar in terms of both size and athleticism. And like Perry, he looks physically ready to play.
Again, he'll have to pick up the defensive schemes quickly, but the opportunity will be there if he does.
We didn't get a chance to see the specialty guys work, so there's no word on Jay Williams yet.
While we had a chance to see a lot of Bama's true freshman in the spring, it was interesting to see how some of them have developed over the off-season. One added benefit of these guys is that they can quickly help the newer guys adjust to the practice tempo.
#14 Phillip Sims
He looks to have slimmed down even more than from the spring, and it shows mostly in his footwork. Like most high school QBs, he spent of his time in the shotgun before coming to Bama. He looked much more comfortable in his three and five step drops, and maintained his quick release.
With Bama having just three scholarship QBs, he'll have to stay ready to go at all times. He'll compete with A.J. McCarron for the backup QB job, and might work his way off of the scout team.
The fact that Star Jackson decided to transfer tells me that Sims was already ahead of him. The fact that when Jackson left we didn't hear of the Tide staff quickly beginning to recruit an elite QB tells me that the staff thinks Sims has a big future.
John Fulton #10 and DeMarcus Milliner #28
Another couple of guys who will be linked throughout their careers. Milliner is physically ahead, while Fulton is mentally ahead. That's not a shock, considering Milliner never played corner in high school.
Fulton reminds me a lot of Robby Green, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him quickly compete for time in the nickel and dime packages. Milliner has a lot of experience at safety, so if Bama struggles to find a guy to play opposite Mark Barron, he could get a look there.
Jalston Fowler - #45
If you saw Fowler on the street you would guess that he's a junior. This kid is huge and physical, and is already earning a reputation among his peers as a guy that you don't want to get hit by.
I will be shocked if we don't see him, at the very least, on special teams this season. Bama's depth at linebacker might keep him from seeing meaningful playing time there, but this kid is simply too physical to keep off of the field entirely.
Petey Smith - #38
He moves really well, and looks to be ideal for the will position. If he can maintain his speed as he continues to grow, he could end up being a candidate for the rabbit rusher package early. He's already 11 months removed from high school, and it shows. His time in the spring could equal early playing time, especially on special teams.
As for guys who redshirted in 2009 who practiced during the night session, two really stood out to me.
Although I'm not wild about the cult following this kid seems to have on the internet despite not playing a down of football, he looks really good. Don't take him being a part of the nigh session as a sign that he's buried on the depth chart. Instead, take it that the staff wanted him to get extra reps, and he wouldn't have gotten those behind Ingram and Richardson in the morning practice.
The staff was really high on him last year, and it's easy to see why. He's big, he's physical, and he's fast. He looks a lot like Bama's other two running backs, and that could be really scary if he ends up being as good as advertised.
When watching the other outside linebackers go through agility drills, he looked to be on another level. Most of the other outside guys are potential jacks, which means they aren't likely to be as mobile, but I was really impressed with his overall quickness.
Jerrell Harris is the likely guy at the sam linebacker, but his versatility could mean that he moves around some. If he does, look for Atchison to push to be the guy to step into the sam spot.
When the news came down that Rod Woodson was no longer on the team, two other names quickly surfaced - Michael Bowman and Darrington Sentimore. Neither guy looks to be leaving the program, but both guys were allegedly involved in the same fireworks incident as Woodson, and it looks like they are handling some internal punishment.
Both guys were at practice tonight, and both guys worked last in their personnel groupings. That's been a common indication during Nick Saban's tenure at Alabama that a kid is being punished. When scholarship athletes who are expected to compete for playing time are getting reps behind walk-ons who are not, it seems pretty clear.
It will be interesting to watch how quickly these guys move from the back of the groups. If they don't do so by the second scrimmage, it could mean that they're set to miss a game. We'll keep you updated.
The team will practice as a full squad in the middle of the blistering summer heat on Friday. It's expected that the heat index at 2:30 when practice begins will be in the neighborhood of 105. There is a chance of rain, and I'm guessing there are a lot of players hoping that they end up inside for the practice.
While I'm sure the staff would love to work the guys in some heat, don't be shocked to see a practice or two move inside even if there is no rain. Tuscaloosa is in the middle of a heat wave that can get dangerous, and the Tide staff is so well organized that if that danger become real, they won't hesitate to move inside. It gets incredibly hot inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility, as well, but it's out of the sun.
Either way, we'll have our normal report.
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