30 March 2011
The Alabama football team practiced in full pads again on Monday. The practice was the fifth of 15 for the Tide football team this spring.
Here's what you need to know:
Through five practice the Tide remains healthy. Tyler Love missed his second consecutive workout with what appears to be a concussion. Otherwise the Tide has suffered no injuries in practice that have forced a player to be withheld from contact.
Having said that, the same five guys who have practiced in black no contact jerseys during the first four practices remained so during the fifth - Mark Barron (pectoral), Jonathan Atchison (bicep), Brad Smelley (wrist), Nick Perry (shoulder), and Jarrick Williams (shoulder).
Both Robby Green and Brandon Moore missed practice again due to suspensions. Green has not been with the team at practice yet, and this was Moore's second consecutive miss. If these guys aren't back after Saturday's scrimmage, don't be shocked to hear that they have moved on.
The quarterback battle remains the top position battle drawing fan attention. It also remains the one with the least amount of relevant news. Both A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims have had good starts to the spring period, but neither guy has made a huge leap forward (or backward) yet. Folks close to the program seem to think that it's McCarron's job to lose, but until you hear Nick Saban announce for one of the guys at a press conference, don't write them down in pen.
The players listed above in black having missed practice time has increased a lot of reps for guys who might not have otherwise gotten them - especially at the safety position. With Barron, Perry, and Williams all playing safety - as well as Wesley Neighbors who is being withheld from all practice during the spring - Will Lowery and Vinnie Sunseri have been given increased opportunities. Lowery played in every game last season, so it's not a shock that he's been getting reps. Sunseri, on the other hand, was likely only remembered as a signee by most Bama fans because of his last name. Don't be shocked to see him keep getting solid reps during the spring, and then turn that into playing time on the kick coverage units in the fall.
With Preston Dial having graduated from the H-Back role, Brad Smelley looked to have a clear path towards a starting spot in 2011. The time he has been limited has opened the door to two redshirt freshmen - Brian Vogler and Harrison Jones. Chris Underwood has seen some additional reps at the H-back, thought it's likely he'll stay with Michael Williams at the traditional tight end spot. Don't be shocked to hear Jalston Fowler's name pop up at some point in the H-back discussion. He has the size and skill set to be deadly at that position. He is totally unique among Bama's running backs when it comes to size and skill set, though. The Tide is deep enough at that spot that it'll be tough for him to crack his way into the regular rotation there, but he is talented enough that the staff will likely look for ways to get him on the field. If none of the other H-back candidates lock down that spot, Fowler might get a look.
The offensive line rotation has not changed much during the first five practices. Aaron Douglas and Alfred McCullough are still battling for the left tackle spot, while Arie Kouandjio is making a bit of a push on Chance Warmack at left guard. Until the Tide scrimmages on Saturday, don't expect a lot of movement here. Once the guys have had a chance to perform in live situations, we might see a bit of a shakeup at the beginning of next week.
The wide receiver rotation is still wide open behind Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks. Brandon Gibson is once again having a great spring. But that is something that has been said in each of the last two springs, and it did not translate into game production. He and McCarron do have great timing, so that could help him if McCarron wins the starting job. Kevin Norwood and Ronald Carswell have gotten great reviews for their technique. Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White have the type of game-changing speed that tends to catch the eyes. From someone close to the program, White was extremely impressive over the second half of last year. I expect he'll be the third receiver once the fall rolls around.
Alabama will practice again on Wednesday, and we'll have our normal report.
In other Bama sports news:
The Alabama basketball team advanced to the finals of the N.I.T. with a win over Colorado on Tuesday night. They also received word that JaMychal Green intends to return for his senior season - something that comes as a bit of a shock to me. Bama will play Wichita State in the N.I.T. Finals on Thursday night.
The Tide women's gymnastics team won its seventh SEC Championship over the past weekend and will host an NCAA Regional on the weekend of the 8th, as they seek their fourth NCAA Title.
The Tide softball team continues to plow its way over the competition, and will likely be in the top 5 (if not at #1) throughout the remainder of the season.
The Tide baseball team cracked its way into the top 25 after winning seven in a row. That streak ended with a loss at UAB on Tuesday, but the Tide has started SEC play strong.