05 August 2011
The Alabama football team held its first practice of the year on Friday morning. The split squad practice was held in shorts, jerseys in helmets. It was a cloudy morning in Tuscaloosa, giving the players a break from the 90 degree temperatures that we've been seeing that early in the morning.
Here's what you need to know:
The only players who were wearing black no contact jerseys were the two quartebacks - A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims. I was expected that we would see a number of guys in black, most notably Eddie Lacy, Alex Watkins, and Carson Tinker. This could be a solid indication of where these guys are with their injuries, but could also be a reflection of the fact that the Tide was not even wearing shoulder pads. My guess is that we'll see those three guys in black once there is danger of some contact, but the fact that they were all able to participate fully in practice is a good sign.
Lacy was wearing a protective brace that was visible under his jersey, though he did carry the ball on the right side - which is where his pectoral injury is located. If you missed it, Lacy injured his right pectoral a week or so ago in a weight lifting accident. Rumors immediately began swirling on the internet that he had torn the pectoral and would miss the entire season. Coach Saban addressed this today in his media conference by blasting the media for running with unsubstantiated rumors. He went so far as to threaten to go on the internet and start false rumors himself to prove a point. I imagine the Coach was joking, but when he is in full on rant mode, it's tough to tell.
I imagine that fire was fueled last night when rumors came out about DeQuan Menzie suffering an injury. I don't know whether he did or did not, but he showed absolutely no limitations in the media's time during practice today.
Trent Richardson was wearing a wrap on his left thigh and calf, apparent evidence of a hamstring injury that he suffered around 10 days ago. He was running without limitation, so it does not appear to be something that we need to worry about at this time. Coach Saban indicated that Bama had three players at running back that he was pleased with, and we can assume that those three guys are Richardson, Lacy, and Fowler. The fact that Coach didn't mention any of those three being limited by injury is a good sign. The morning session had just these three guys plus walk-on Ben Howell (now wearing #25) at the running back position.
Coach Saban indicated that Blake Sims might see some time at running back, but he will be in tonight's practice. My guess is that he'll be at quarterback during the media viewing period along with Phillip Ely and Morgan Ogilvie - if Ogilvie is on the 105 man roster.
Alex Watkins tore his ACL during the off season and many had feared that his senior season might be in jeopardy. He practiced today without apparent limitation (other than a brace on the knee) and Coach Saban indicated that the staff was very pleased with his progress. It still would not surprise me to see him in black for the first few days of contact, but his being healthy would be a big bonus. He's not only been a special teams stalwart for the last two seasons, but he has worked himself into contention for playing time at the sam linebacker spot.
Carson Tinker being at practice is a minor miracle. The Tide's starting long snapper is, quite frankly, lucky to be alive. If you missed the Sports Illustrated article, Carson was literally thrown by the April 27th tornado. The house that he was in was directly hit by the tornado and his girlfriend was killed. Carson suffered a concussion and broken wrist that required surgery. He's wearing a wrap on that wrist, but practiced today. If he is able to start against Kent State, expect there to be an absolute roar when he is announced as the starter prior to the game.
McCarron and Sims worked together, with no guy appearing to be ahead of the other during the media viewing period. There will be a lot of talk about this all fall, but very little actual evidence of one guy being ahead of the other. We'll still let you know what we see, but don't expect a quick resolution.
The offensive line unit that worked together is the same one that closed the spring - Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack, William Vlachos, Anthony Steen, and D.J. Fluker from left to right. I don't expect that to change prior to the first scrimmage. There were four reserve linemen present at the practice - Alfred McCullough, John Michael Boswell, Austin Shepherd, and Kellen Williams.
There were no surprises with the tight end group. Michael Williams and Brad Smelley led drills at the two tight end spots, with Brian Vogler backing up Williams and Chris Underwood backing up Smelley.
Surprisingly there were just five receivers in the morning practice - Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Brandon Gibson, DeAndrew White, and walk-on Hardie Buck. Interestingly, Maze was wearing a protective boot after practice. Coach Saban did not mention anything serious, so it's likely just a precaution. We'll know more on that tomorrow when the full squad practice together.
I think this group indicated what we told you in this morning's article; DeAndrew White is ready to play. Coach Saban singled him out as a guy who has been impressive, and that's usually a sign of things to come.
Coach Saban did mention that Duron Carter has not been cleared to practice yet, despite the fact that he has been in Tuscaloosa since early July. Apparently there are still some lingering issues with his transcript that could be cleared up as early as today. He'll likely be the first person that all media members try to locate tonight.
Danny Woodson, Jr. is qualified, but is not currently on the roster due to a numbers crunch. Coach Saban indicated that if a spot came open, Woodson would be brought in. That happened last year when Alfy Hill was declared ineligible at the open of camp and Harrison Jones joined the team late. Woodson will greyshirt if no spot is available and join in the team in January. And, yes, he was made aware of that possibility before he signed with the Tide.
The defensive line shaped up about as expected also, with Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry being the two interior linemen, with the ends present being Damion Square, Ed Stinson, Quinton Dial, Jesse Williams, Undra Billingsley, and Chris Bonds. Bonds is the only surprise out of that group, with the others being the five that I expected we would see in the rotation. Coach Saban would caution us that Bonds being in the morning session was for organizational purposes, but it likely indicates that he is a little ahead of the other young guys. I expected that spot to belong to Brandon Lewis, so he'll have a bit of a challenge early in camp.
The linebacker group was as expected also. Present were Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw, Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley, Chris Jordan, Jerrell Harris, and Alex Watkins. There will be an extremely talented group on hand tonight, but no one should be surprised that this is the lead group.
The defensive back group was also what we expected to see - Mark Barron, Robert Lester, Will Lowery, Dre Kirkpatrick, DeMarcus Milliner, DeQuan Menzie, Phelon Jones, and John Fulton.
The other bit of roster news is that Brent Calloway has completed his course work, and the staff is waiting for clearance from the NCAA. It's possible that clearance could come down this afternoon and Calloway will be at practice tonight. I am guessing he'll be the #2 guy that media members locate after Duron Carter.
ESPN's Jessie Palmer was on hand, so expect to see him talking about Alabama's practice the next time he's on College Football Live.
Bama will practice again at 7:30 tonight. Our report will be up late, but you should see it first thing in the morning.
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