18 April 2011
The Alabama football concluded its 2011 spring practice session on Saturday with the annual A-Day Game. Played in absolute perfect weather, the game was attended by 92,310 people. Add in the ESPN-U television broadcast, and chances are, most of you probably saw the game in one form or another.
If you didn't, here's what you need to know:
All reports about the quarterback battle not having been decided are 100% correct. Both A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims looked very good when playing with the first unit, and both looked poor when playing with the second unit. As was the case through most of the spring, their numbers were not terribly far apart. The difference is that this time we got to see how the numbers stacked up. There will be a lot that happens over the course of the summer and leading into the season, beginning, and that is likely where this battle will have to be decided.
If pressed to make a judgment solely on what I saw on Saturday, I would lean towards Sims. Not only did McCarron have two turnovers (1 INT, 1 goal line fumble) to Sims having just one (INT), Sims just looked better to me. The biggest difference was his willingness to stay within the pocket and step up to make throws. McCarron quickly bailed on the pocket and tried to out run SEC linebackers to the edge. The result of that was McCarron being sacked 6 times to Sims just once. Both guys made some great throws, and both guys made some poor ones. McCarron's best two throws came to Trent Richardson - one on a wheel route down the sideline and another on a crossing pattern that resulted in the game's sole passing touchdown. Sims did not have any one singular eye-popping play, though each time he stepped into the pocket and showed off his arm it was quite impressive.
Phillip Ely and Blake Sims only got a couple of series between them, and it's safe to say that neither guy is really in the race to play quarterback in 2011. Ely will almost certainly redshirt if both McCarron and Phillip Sims stay healthy. What we saw from Blake Sims was pocket passing, which will not be his role if he takes snaps this coming season. He's got enough of an arm to be a passing threat from the wildcat package, but his strength is his elusiveness. Expect Bama's wildcat package to be far more diverse when he is taking the snaps - think about what Auburn did when Kodi Burns took snaps in 2010. I still think we'll see Trent Richardson take some snaps in a similar role to what he and Mark Ingram have had the last two seasons.
Speaking of Richardson... get ready for a season-long Heisman campaign if he stays healthy. He is an absolute complete player at this point. Not only is he still incredibly difficult to bring down on runs, but he's been the Tide's leading receiver through the spring's three scrimmages. Add in improved blocking and you get a guy who is almost certain to be playing his final collegiate season, as well as a guy who will likely have a very long career in the NFL.
Among the new guys, Dee Hart, Trey DePriest, and Vinnie Sunseri made the biggest impact. Hart is quick and showed skills as both a receiver, a runner, and a downfield blocker. DePriest played quite a bit and was solid. Sunseri played way more than I expected, and layed out the two biggest hits of the day. He was around the ball constantly and looks to be as advertised - a guy who will simply make plays.
We'll have positional breakdowns and individual player profiles in the days to come. Overall what A-Day showed is that this is an incredibly deep football team that has the talent to win championships in 2011. There will be a lot that has to happen in order for those titles to head to Tuscaloosa, with the quarterback battle being foremost among them. The defense is as deep as I have ever seen in Tuscaloosa, and the competition at virtually every position should create very productive offseasons.
It's an exciting time to be a Bama fan, and we'll go into a lot of the reasons as to why in the next few weeks.
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