25 August 2011
The University of Alabama football team held its first full squad practice of the 2011 season on Wednesday. The members of 105 man roster were able to participate in full pads, while the walk-ons who joined the team on the day classes began at the Capstone worked in shorts and helmets.
Here's what you need to know:
Unfortunately Duron Carter did not join the team on Wednesday. The last day to enroll for the fall semester at Alabama is next Wednesday, the 31st. If we don't see Duron by Monday, I am guessing that we will see Danny Woodson, Jr. on Tuesday. That's purely a guess, though, as everyone who seems to know something about this issue has expected it be settled by now.
Backup center Kellen Williams rode a stationary bike with a protective boot on his left ankle. He's had a great camp, clearly establishing himself as the Tide's #2 center - though I think Barrett Jones would play there if William Vlachos was injured. Williams is almost certain to get a lot of snaps against both Kent State and North Texas if healthy, so the injury this close to the season has to be disheartening. Linemen will frequently wear a boot and then be good to go the next day, and hopefully that will be the case on Williams.
Joining him on a stationary bike was true freshman Dee Hart, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL near the end of July. The fact that Hart is on a bike already is a very encouraging sign that he'll make a full recovery. I expect we'll see him redshirt, as the staff does not expect to see him back on the field until late October or early November. But you can bet that if Hart is cleared medically and the staff feels like he could be the difference in the game against LSU or the SEC Championship Game, that we would see him play. Obviously you don't want to burn a redshirt late in the season, but we all need to get used to the fact that Alabama is going to start losing a lot of juniors to the NFL. If Hart is one of those elite guys - and many people think he is - then he would be eligible to leave after his redshirt sophomore season. So the redshirt would have done him, and the team, absolutely no good.
Kenny Bell was spotted wearing a knee brace for the second consecutive practice, but he has not shown any limitations because of it.
Otherwise it was a pretty standard practice. Coach Saban continues to stress the need for the team to get better, especially mentally. But you can tell by listening to him that he knows that this team has the potential to be a great one. Winning championships takes an awful lot of luck, so don't book your trips to New Orleans just yet. But when a head coach that typically likes to bad mouth his team is having to hide his excitement, you have to feel good about Bama's chances to be contention.
It's been pretty common under Nick Saban to see the team practice and scrimmage very heavy in the passing game, knowing that the running attack will be where it needs to be. That has certainly been amplified this season as the Tide is trying to determine who the starting quarterback will be. The staff is also very aware of the fact that teams, especially early in the season (Penn State and Arkansas), will stack the box and make either Phillip Sims or A.J. McCarron (or both) demonstrate that they are capable of moving the chains.
With that in mind, we've seen an increased focus on the downfield passing game. Bama has some guys who are capable of stretching the field in a way that not many recent player have. Julio Jones was fast, and Marquis Maze is fast. But the type of speed possessed by DeAndrew White, Kenny Bell, and Bradley Sylve is on a different level. At this point, only White has demonstrated a consistent ability to get out of press coverage and into his route, as well as consistently break his route off when appropriate. But make no mistake about it, Bama has not had a pure speed guy like Bell or Sylve since possibly Pierre Goode. There have been some fast guys in the last 25 years, but when Bell and Sylve start running go routes, it just looks different.
As I said earlier, the flow of information will all but dry up once the team starts practicing an actual game plan. That's expected to happen on Friday. The coaching staff isn't waiting for Friday, though, as this media viewing period showed virtually nothing new. Honestly, if the staff is moving on to game planning without hesitation, it means that the team is ready. So read that as a good sign.
Bama will practice again on Thursday, and we'll have our normal report.
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