14 March 2010
Sorry for the delay in this. I've had the plague for the last week, and it's still kicking my butt.
The Alabama football team held the first of its 14 spring practices on Friday, leading up to A-Day on April 17. The squad was in shorts and helmets, with no pads.
Here's what you need to know:
Dont'a Hightower has been cleared by the medical staff to return to practice. This is way ahead of schedule, but Coach Saban indicated that he thought Dont'a could play in a game if there was one today. He didn't actually do much in Friday's practice due to a calf strain, but he'll be over that by the time Bama begins practicing again after spring break. Also cleared for contact are Jeramie Griffin and Damion Square, who also had knee surgery in 2009.
Starting center William Vlachos will not participate in spring contact drills due to offseason foot surgery. He should be fine long before the season starts, but will be held out of contact during the spring. So expect to hear his name in the first part of every report as being in a black no contact jersey.
Michael Bowman was in a black jersey with an abdominal strain. More on him later. Milton Talbert was also in black, but no injury was disclosed. Both of these guys are expected back when the Tide resumes practice.
Terry Grant has left the football team. This really doesn't come as a shock to anyone who listened to the rumors last off season that he might transfer, and then watched him have an injury-plagued 2009. He has his degree, and it looks as though he is simply moving on. He could potentially transfer to play somewhere else next season. Terry's career comes to a close with 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns - including one on the first offensive snap of the Nick Saban era. His role at running back was likely to be limited again in 2010, but he did figure to factor into the return game.
Also having left the team is Tavis Sikes. While it is thought that he was initially a scholarship player, I do not believe that he was on scholarship during the 2009 season. He appeared in six games in his career, all on special teams. Like Grant, Sike has earned his degree from the University of Alabama.
Robby Green was not at practice, though his absence was excused. He has been cleared to practice, and is expected to do so when Bama practices again a week from Monday. Coach Saban said that Green's status for next season is still uncertain, and that Green has not gone through his "due process" with the NCAA.
Michael Bowman was one of several guys who worked in new areas on Friday - in his case, he was getting some work with the tight ends. He's not likely to be a traditional tight end, but with his receiver speed and skill-set, could likely be a nightmare matchup for defenses in a hybrid receiver/tight end position.
Undra Billingsley was working with the defensive linemen, after seeing brief playing time as a tight end last year. He worked with the defensive line last spring as well, and it will be interesting to watch where he works for the remainder of the spring.
Kendall Kelly has opened the spring working with the safeties. He's still wearing #81, so it's unlikely that this is a permanent move at this point. That might not be much to base something on, but I've never seen a safety in college football wear a number in the 80s. If it looks like he'll be making the move more permanent, expect to see a number change.
Also getting some work with the defensive backs was Brandon Gibson. Coach Saban indicated that Gibson will likely split his time this spring between defensive back and wide receiver, as the staff looks for ways to get him more involved.
Early enrollee Jalston Fowler worked at inside linebacker. He was signed to play running back, but it looks as though he'll start his career on the defensive side of the ball.
His coach at the inside linebackers spot was Alabama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart. New addition to the coaching staff Jeremy Pruitt was working with the defensive backs, and Smart has moved to inside linebackers to replace James Willis.
Defensive lineman Brandon Moore has changed his jersey number to #97.
11 guys made their practice debut at Alabama, though I wasn't able to see Cade Foster or Darius McKeller, so I don't have jersey numbers on them. If you've heard numbers on these two, let me know. Otherwise, here's the run down on the new guys:
Jalston Fowler - #45
John Fulton - #10
Brandon Lewis - #95
Chad Lindsay - #78
DeMarcus Milliner - #28
Anthony Orr - #60
Austin Shepherd - #79
Phillip Sims - #14
Petey Smith - #38
The players have been released for spring break, and will return to practice on Monday the 22nd. We'll have our normal report at that time.
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