22 March 2010
The Alabama football team practiced inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility to escape the cold and wet weather in Tuscaloosa. Monday's practice was the second of 15 during the spring, and the first since the team came back from spring break. The practice was once again held in shorts and helmets.
Here's what you need to know:
The injury situation appears to still be in good shape. William Vlachos rode a stationary bike, which is something that will likely continue throughout the remainder of the practices. He had surgery on his foot in the off season, and while he is expected to be fully ready to go by the fall, he will likely miss all of the spring. Milton Talbert is also in a black jersey, but the extent of his injury has not been disclosed. He did participate in individual drills, so it is not thought to be serious.
All three of the guys who had season ending surgery were once again practicing, having been cleared for contact. While Jeramie Griffin and Damion Square will both have roles on the team, Dont'a Hightower is the biggest name of the three. It's expected by most that he will slide over to the mike linebacker to replace Rolando McClain. Like McClain, he's a cerebral player, and he spent the majority of last season shadowing McClain both on and off of the field. He's similar in size, but is possibly more athletic; which is a scary thought for opposing teams. He's still got a ways to go before he is ready to take over all of the play calling and play making duties of last year's Butkus Award winner, but the fact that he is healthy enough to participate in the spring is a huge plus.
Earl Alexander was back practicing after having been in black during the first practice. Earl missed a lot of time due to injury in the fall, and if he's going to have an impactful senior season, he's got to get and stay healthy.
Robby Green practiced with the team after missing the first practice. There has been no announcement of a ruling on his eligibility for the fall, but I have to think that him participating in practice is a good sign. I have a hard time believing that he would be taking a full set of practice repetitions if the staff knew that he was going to miss the entire 2010 season. That is certainly still a possibility, but at least it is not an absolute given at this point.
Kendall Kelly continued to work with the safeties, as Bama is looking to develop depth in the defensive backfield. He's still working behind both Green and Robert Lester, and he's still wearing #81, so it's not a permanent move yet. Speaking of Lester, he has gained considerable bulk since last season, and looks much more similar to a Justin Woodall type of safety than the wirey guy that we saw in 2009.
Brandon Gibson is still working with the wide receivers, though Coach Saban has indicated that he will spend some time with the defensive backs. He has continually been among the leading scorers in Bama's offseason conditioning programs, and it is clear that the coaching staff is trying to find some role for him to get on the field.
Michael Bowman worked the with wide receivers despite the fact that he is expected to spend some time with the tight ends. I'm still not convinced that he'll ever be a traditional tight end, so my guess is that he's working with the receivers to continue to develop his route running abilities. The fact that he's up close to 240 lbs. tells me that he's not likely to be an outside speed burner, though. Look for him to probably still be a hybrid receiver/tight end guy that the staff tries to match up with linebackers and safeties.
Mike Marrow was working with the tight ends, though. He spent the 2009 season at fullback, but since the Bama offense doesn't really feature that position, I'm guessing that means that he is learning the H-back role that we saw Preston Dial play in 2009. Dial is still the front runner there, but Marrow has the athleticism to develop into a similar type of player. If he doesn't settle there, linebacker is still a possibility.
Jalston Fowler continued to work with the linebackers, as it looks like he might simply be too big to play running back. That's saying something if you've seen Trent Richardson lately, too. Trent looks like a small car coming at you when he runs. Fowler is up around 250 lbs., though, and his athleticism makes him a prime cadidate for the middle linebacker spot.
Bama welcomed a new addition to the coaching staff during the break. Derrick Ansley is joining the staff as a graduate assistant after serving as the defensive backs coach at Huntingdon College. His DBs totalled 22 interceptions in 2009, and he'll look to bring that type of production to a completely rebuilt Bama secondary. He'll join Jeremy Pruitt and Coach Saban (and I'm guessing Kirby Smart will still sneak back there some) in helping the staff attempt to recover from the loss of five starters in the defensive backfield (counting the nickel and dime package extra DBs Marquis Johnson and Ali Sharrief).
Through two practices the quarterback situation remains exactly the same as it was entering the spring. Greg McElroy (finally healed from his rib injury) is clearly the #1, with A.J. McCarron solidly at #2, Star Jackson at #3, and Phillip Sims at #4. Sims doesn't look like a guy three months removed from high school. All of that extra weight that he was carrying last summer is gone, and he looks very comfortable at a college football practice. He's still adjusting to the overall speed of his receivers, but that type of timing comes with repetitions. He's pretty light on his feet for a guy his size, and he has a quicker release than I remember seeing - though it's nowhere near as quick as McCarron's. Lordy that kid gets rid of the ball quickly.
The Tide will be off on Tuesday, but is expected to practice again on Wednesday. We'll have our normal coverage.
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