12 April 2011
The Alabama football team has just two practices remaining before spring practice culminates with Saturday's A-Day game. The Tide completed its second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, and any changes that will come as a result of the last week should be evident in Tuesday's practice.
It's been a relatively quiet spring so far, with only one major injury. Senior linebacker Alex Watkins was lost to a knee injury, though there is hope that he'll be ready to go in the fall.
Otherwise, all of the injured players participated in Saturday's scrimmage - including both Mark Barron (pectoral) and Jarrick Williams (shoulder) who are rehabing from surgery. Nick Perry (shoulder) and Brad Smelley (wrist) also worked without limitation in the scrimmage, as did Tyler Love, who had missed a week of contact due to a concussion.
Coming out of the scrimmage there is still no determination on who the Tide's next quarterback will be. While Phillip Ely and Blake Sims have worked at quarterback, no stats have been released for them. It's a two man race between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims, and there numbers in the two scrimmages are:
37 of 73 for 444 yards, 7 TDs and 2 INTS
39 of 64 for 457 yards, 5 TDs and 3 INTS
Those numbers are insanely close. In a combined 137 attempts they were separated by 2 completions and 13 yards. The reality is that these numbers don't mean much out of context, though. We don't know how many of those completions were 20 yard out routes and how many were dump passes to the tailback. We don't know whether the touchdowns came on sustained drives or were the result of situational drills that put the offense at 1st and goal at the 1 yard line.
We don't know if the interceptions came on batted balls, poor throws, poor reads, poor routes, great plays by DBs, or just bad luck. We don't know how many sacks each guy took. We don't know how many passes were dropped. We don't know how many balls were thrown into double coverage when a different receiver was wide open.
Nick Saban has indicated that there is not enough separation between the two to name a starter. While the stats don't tell the whole story, they say enough. I didn't tell you which guy was which, and that was on purpose. There seems to be a real divide happening in the Bama fan base between those people that want A.J. McCarron to win and those that want Phillip Sims to win. I want Alabama to win, so I don't much care which guy gets the nod.
But for the record, the first numbers belong to McCarron (more TDs, less INTs) and the second to Sims (better %, better yards per attempt). It should be interesting to see how the teams divide up on A-Day. Don't be shocked to see a weird situation where each guy gets a half with the "first unit".
The offensive line remains mostly unchanged from entering the spring - at least with the first unit. Alfred McCullough is still ahead of Aaron Douglas at left tackle, and the other four spots remain the same as we saw in the Capital One Bowl.
Trent Richardson is light years ahead of everyone at tailback, but that's got a lot more to do with his ability than with any shortcomings from the rest of the group. Eddie Lacey is firmly the number two guy, with Dee Hart, Jalston Fowler, and Demetrius Goode battling for carries.
Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks are the two known quantities at wide receiver, and each guy has had a good spring - especially from a leadership standpoint. DeAndrew White looks like the best candidate to emerge as the #3 guy. I heard great things about him all last year from someone who has an office in the Mal Moore Building, and that person fully expects to see him become a major factor this fall. His first two scrimmages have given the appearance that he could be ready to make the step forward.
Michael Williams has a firm grasp on the true tight end spot, while Brad Smelley and Brian Vogler are in a battle at the H-Back spot. Smelley's wrist injury has given Vogler extra reps, and I am still convinced that we'll see Jalston Fowler take some snaps there in the fall - he's too talented to keep on the sidelines.
The defense is simply loaded with athletes. The best thing about that is that Coach Saban has repeatedly praised Dont'a Hightower, Mark Barron, and Courtney Upshaw for their leadership this spring. That was something that was missing at crucial times during the 2010 season, and will be needed if Bama wants to make a championship run in 2011. Rolando McClain and Javier Arenas weren't just missed for their athletic ability.
The great thing about the defense is the shear number of guys that have the real potential to get meaningful snaps, especially with the way that Nick Saban and Kirby Smart like to rotate players in and out. If the staff decides to go with a true "first team vs. second team" look on A-Day, the second team defense will be better than most opponents' starting unit. That should create great competition over the summer, and we should see a deep and motivated defense in 2011.
The kicking game has not gotten much praise from the staff this spring, despite the fact that all of the Tide's kickers are returning. It should be a great opportunity for those guys on A-Day to prove their ability to be consistent with a crowd in the stadium. That could go the other way, too. I am guessing we'll still see Jeremey Shelley and Cade Foster split the place kicking duties. Cody Mandell had a decent enough year for a true freshman at punter, so I expect he'll eventually win that job.
There has still be no sign of Robby Green or Brandon Moore since their suspensions were announced. I said initially that if we did not see them back by the first practice of the final week that I did not expect them back. I guess we'll see later on today when Bama hits the practice field.
We'll have our normal report from that practice.
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