23 August 2011
The University of Alabama football team practiced on Tuesday for the final time before classes begin. The practice in full pads was the last of the season with just 105 guys. Beginning Wednesday Bama will have its entire allotment of walk-ons join the team.
Here's what you need to know:
The health situation is better than expected. The quarterbacks were the only guys who were practicing in black no contact jerseys.
That was not a surprise with Dre Kirkpatrick, as everyone expected him to be ready to go today. Arie Kouandjio wasn't a guarantee with a patella tendon issue, but he was back at his customary spot with the second unit offensive line at right tackle. I was surprised to see Brandon Ivory back out there practicing without limitation. He was wearing a large brace on his left knee, but it did not appear to be bothering him.
Jeoffrey Pagan was wearing a brace in his right knee for the first time, though it did not appear to limit him, and he was not favoring it.
Dont'a Hightower did not even have his surgically repaired hand taped. The wrap on that hand has gotten smaller every day, and on Tuesday he was wearing a pair of Nike gloves. That's a good sign that he'll be 100% when the season starts.
Phelon Jones has been getting some extra reps at cornerback in the last week or so, and many folks thought that was because of nagging injuries to DeMarcus Milliner and Dre Kirkpatrick - myself included. Coach Saban indicated in his press conference today that Phelon is actually in solid competition to win a starting job. In his comments, it seemed that the Coach might have tipped his hand that DeQuan Menzie will be a starter at corner, and also indicated that Menzie is the likely starter at the star position in the nickel. That means that Milliner (who started in 2010) and Jones will be battling it out over the next ten days to see who gets the game snaps at the corner opposite Kirkpatrick. That's not a position battle that many expected.
Interestingly enough, with Jones and Milliner battling it out at that corner, true freshman safety Hasean Clinton-Dix has been getting the second unit reps behind Menzie at the star position. Clinton-Dix looks way too talented to not be on the field, and I think he'll be a strong contender to play as the money in Bama's dime package. If he has the cover skills to play the star, that could potentially open up the possibility of a move to corner down the line for him. Bama is deep at safety, and looks to be getting deeper with this year's recruiting class. Clinton-Dix looks to be a natural safety, but the Tide has very little depth at corner behind the starting guys. Menzie and Jones are seniors, and most people expect that Dre Kirkpatrick is likely to declare for the NFL Draft. That would leave just Milliner, John Fulton, and Jabriel Washington as returning scholarship players at corner in 2012. If Clinton-Dix is capable of playing corner, it really opens Bama's options in the secondary for next season.
One guy who might have helped himself considerably during Saturday's scrimmage is Michael Bowman. He's moved back and forth from wide receiver to tight end, and back, over the course of the last year. He's not quite fast enough for receiver, and not quite big enough for tight end - at least that's been the knock on him. He had a huge scrimmage, mostly at wide receiver, and could be the Tide's big physical receiver if Duron Carter does not end up in school.
That situation is, unfortunately, still unresolved. Coach Saban indicated in his press conference that nothing had changed from last week. For the first time, he also mentioned Danny Woodson, Jr.'s name as a possibility if Carter doesn't make it in. Woodson is the son of former Bama quarterback Danny Woodson and is currently set to greyshirt. If Carter doesn't make it before next Wednesday, it looks like the staff would have Woodson join the team. There is still optimism that Carter will get cleared.
Coach Saban indicated that the team might start working on Kent State as soon as Friday. Earlier he had targeted Saturday as the day. That tell me that he's pleased with the team's fundamental state at the moment, and that he feels that they might be ready to move on to a game plan.
With the rosters expanding, and Carter hopefully joining the team soon, remember that NCAA rules require that any player have two days with no pads, followed by two days in shells, before they can practice in full pads. So we'll some guys milling around in shorts and helmets on Wednesday. Last season the Tide media relations department did not release a roster of the walk-ons who joined the team once school started. If they do this season, we'll try to give you a list of who has joined the team.
Otherwise, we'll have our normal report.
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