02 September 2010
The calendar turning to September means that football season is finally here. Bama has just two practices left prior to the kickoff of the 2010 season. Wednesday's practice was in full pads inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility. Coach Saban indicated that he wanted to give the players a bit of a break.
Here's what you need to know:
Mark Ingram and Wesley Neighbors are the only two players that were withheld from contact at practice. Neither guy will play (or likely even dress) for the game on Saturday, though both are progressing well in their rehab.
With all due respect to Neighbors - who we hear has been granted a full football scholarship - the focus for everyone right now is Ingram. While Trent Richardson is a fantastic back, and Eddie Lacy could be wonderful, Ingram is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Basically, he's the best player in college football. So having him back sooner, rather than later, will be a good thing for Bama.
The good news is that Coach Saban indicated that he has very little swelling, which is a big deal. Apparently the amount of swelling pretty much determines how quickly a player is ready to begin running again. Ingram has his sights set on playing against Penn State, though that might be a bit optimistic. We should know more on Monday.
There is still no word on Marcell Dareus, and at this point the staff has to begin preparing for the possibility of making a decision on their own. And, to be honest, I don't think there's any decision to be made. The Tide can not afford to accidentally play an ineligible player. So if the NCAA does not make a ruling one way or the other, he won't play.
While Undra Billingsley and Darrington Sentimore are technically listed as the backups at that defensive end spot, I'm guessing that Damion Square would get the start if Dareus is held out. Word could come as early as today, or it could never come. The NCAA sets its own timetables, and as they proved with both the Alfy Hill ruling and the Jeremiah Masoli ruling, the "best interest of the student-athlete" is a giant load of crap.
There's not much to report from the practice other than things are going well. As is usually the case the guys are getting a fatigued with bumping each other, and are ready to hit someone on another team. The focus is good, and the intensity is where it needs to be.
There's not much going on in terms of experimenting; it's simply too close to game time for that. We did see Anthony Steen work some at right guard with the first unit, though I'm guessing that's just to give the redshirt freshman a look in case Barrett Jones has to slide to right tackle.
Since it was requested, we'll take a look at the redshirt freshmen, and where they look to be heading into the season.
Jonathan Atchison - He's buried behind Chavis Williams and Alex Watkins at the sam linebacker spot. Both of those guys have been in program for a while, so there's not much of a surprise that he's behind them. He could get a look on special teams, and should play some late on Saturday.
Kenny Bell - When Bama goes to four wide receivers, he'll be in the rotation. If not for shin splints that limited him for the first month of last season he might have played in 2009. His speed is among the best on the team, and he offers a vertical threat beyond Marquis Maze. If the Tide puts Bell in the slot, with Julio Jones to his left, and Maze on the outside on the opposite side, he'll get matched up with a safety, and there's not a safety in America that can run with him. That not only potentially gets him deep, but it creates an awful lot of room under a two-deep zone for Maze or Julio to get open.
Chris Bonds - Bama is so deep at defensive end that it's tough for anyone to crack the depth chart. Among the redshirt freshmen, he's behind Sentimore and ahead of William Ming. Linemen can sometimes take several years to get fully developed, and he missed a lot of developmental time in high school due to injuries. The staff likes his athleticism, though, and he could see time late on Saturday. If he performs well, he could potentially work himself into the rotation, especially if Dareus misses substantial time.
D.J. Fluker - he's the starter at right tackle. Not much more needs to be said.
Kendall Kelly - the time he missed during fall camp with "heat related issues" has really limited him. While he spent some time at safety in the spring, he missed a ton of reps in the fall, and is behind pretty much everyone at the position. Don't be too surprised to see the staff appeal for a medical redshirt if he isn't able to play this year. Sixth years aren't always granted, but if the staff can show reason, he might get the year back.
Eddie Lacy - he'll be the second back on Saturday, and I'm guessing he'll actually lead the team in carries for the day. We know what Trent can do, and with Ingram's status for Penn State in the air, the staff will want to keep him fresh. That means Saturday is Eddie's coming out party.
Mike Marrow - he's changed positions from fullback, to h-back, to running back. If Bama wasn't so deep at linebacker, he might get a look there. He's the biggest of the Tide backs at 235 lbs., and that gives him a unique skill set. He might get some touches on Saturday, but it's unlikely he'll get a ton of 2010 carries when Ingram and Richardson are capable of being the "bruising back."
A.J. McCarron - he's the backup quarterback and will play a lot on Saturday. It wouldn't shock me to see him get snaps in most of the games, if for no other reason than to prepare him for next season. Coach Saban is probably a little too conservative for that, but if Bama is up by 17 points in the fourth quarter of any game, don't be surprised to see him.
William Ming - defensive end is not a position of immediate need, and so only the best freshmen will even get a chance to work their way into the rotation. He's a bit of a tweener, similar to Nick Gentry. How effectively he's able to maintain his athleticism when he gains weight will determine if he plays more than Gentry has.
Brandon Moore - He's got the build to play the role that Brandon Deaderick played for the Tide. He can come off of the edge, or be a pseudo defensive tackle based on alignment. He spent some time on offense last year, and that might cost him a chance to move into the rotation this season. His ability to play inside and out could get him on the rabbit rusher team, though.
Kevin Norwood - He's similar to Darius Hanks, and could play a similar role. He's technically listed alongside Kenny Bell on the depth chart, but has a totally different skill-set. He's more of a crisp route runner than a straight speedster. If Bama's receivers are inconsistent with getting separation, look for him to get a chance.
Tana Patrick - probably the guy I was most surprised to not see on the two-deep depth chart. He's got a lot of skill and a lot of athleticism. Bama also has a lot of linebackers that fit that description. He'll get some playing time in 2010, but probably in garbage time. The competition at middle linebacker is fierce, and he'll either respond to it, rise to the challenge, and earn playing time, or he won't, and he won't. Check back in October.
Darrington Sentimore - it looks like he's worked his way into the rotation at defensive end. It wouldn't shock me to see him be one of the linemen in the rabbit rusher package, though he's a little light for that. Either way, he'll play a lot Saturday, especially if Dareus is out. And he'll probably keep playing a lot in every game.
Anthony Steen - he's developed very well, and should see time with the second unit offensive line. He's behind two really fantastic sophomore guards in Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack, so moving up to the first unit will be tough. When you think of depth on the offensive line, and how crucial that is to winning long term, this is what you're talking about.
Ed Stinson - he's behind Courtney Upshaw at the jack linebacker, but should still play a good bit. If Dont'a Hightower has to stay in the middle in the dime package, he'll probably be the other outside guy in the rabbit rusher group. If Hightower is able to move to that spot, his playing time will be limited a good bit.
Kellen Williams - he's developed a good bit more than a lot of folks expected. He's still on the third team, but that's not uncommon for linemen in their second year. He's done a really good job of reshaping his body, and could continue to develop into a solid interior guy.
We'll take a look at the true freshmen on Thursday and Friday, as those practice typically don't have a media viewing period.