09 April 2012
The University of Alabama football team completed its penultimate week of the 2012 spring session with a scrimmage on Friday. The team was then given Saturday and Sunday off for players to spend the Easter holiday with their families.
Here's what you need to know:
The nagging injuries persist, but there have still been no major ones.
Eddie Lacy (toe), Arie Kouandjio (knee), and Blake Sims (hip/stupidity) are all still in black jerseys and will remain that way through A-Day next Saturday.
During the course of the scrimmage several players, including Vinnie Sunseri and Jesse Williams rolled their ankles, while Robert Lester tweaked a knee. None of those injuries is thought to be serious, and all three guys are expected back by A-Day.
There were several position moves made during the week, though I don't think either of the two most prominent will be permanent.
With the offensive line numbers down, and several players in the second unit dealing with some nagging injuries, early enrollee Alphonse Taylor worked with the interior offensive linemen during the second half of the week and during the scrimmage. I still think we will see Taylor in the battle for playing time at the nose guard in the fall, but it will be interesting to see if he's still on offense this week. The might simply be to give Bama enough offensive linemen to form two complete units on A-Day.
Because neither Harrison Jones, nor Brian Vogler have established their blocking game, the staff is still looking for help at the H-Back spot. During the second half of the week and during the scrimmage Brent Calloway was getting a look there. He moved from running back to linebacker at the beginning of the spring, and I expect we will ultimately see him back at linebacker. If Jones and Vogler were struggling to catch the ball, I could see Calloway potentially making an impact at H-Back. But both of those guys are performing their pass catching duties well, and Calloway isn't a better blocker than either. It's an interesting move.
In my ranking of the players on the team I mentioned that William Ming was a bit a tweener, and it looks like I might have been right. He spent the week working at defensive end. Interestingly, Chris Bonds swapped places with him, and worked with outside linebackersat the jack linebacker spot. With the staff looking to find the replacement for Courtney Upshaw. Both Xzavier Dickson and Adrian Hubbard have had good springs, but behind them there is no clear cut depth.
Early enrollee Dillon Lee was getting a look with the sam linebackers after working inside with the will linebackers all spring. Coach Saban has mentioned Lee's progress several times already, and this is likely a move just to get him some experience at multiple positions. There is so much talent ahead of him that the road to playing time this year will be tough at any spot, so getting him a look at all three positions that he might play down the road (mike, will, and sam) is a great use of his time in his first spring period.
As for the scrimmage itself, the Tide pounded the ball on the ground much more - at least with Jalston Fowler, who had 22 carries for 151 yards and three touchdowns, plus a receiving touchdown. If you've listened to the radio broadcast of Bama games in the last two seasons then you have heard CTSM analyst Phil Savage - former GM of the Cleveland Browns and current draft consultant of the Philadelphia Eagles - extol that he doesn't believe there is a lot of separation between Fowler and Eddie Lacy. Those are big numbers for a scrimmage, and included a 68 yard run. Fowler is a far more complete back than most folks give him credit for, and Eddie Lacy will not simply be handed the starting job when the fall rolls around.
There were no other rushing stats released, though Coach Saban did praise the effort of early enrollee T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon has received rave reviews from everyone who has seen him run, and he and Dee Hart will have quite a battle to get carries behind the Lacy and Fowler.
With more rushing attempts, obviously there were less passing attempts. A.J. McCarron was 14-29 for 160 yards, with 4 TDs and 1 INT. Again, those numbers included a lot of situational work. Coach Saban indicated that A.J. has been "consistently good all spring." No numbers were given for either Phillip Sims or Phillip Ely. Sims was still limited with a sore shoulder, though some close to the program have indicated that his limitation (and the increase in reps for Ely) have been impacted by the thought that Sims will be transferring. Obviously Coach Saban would absolutely eviscerate anyone who asked about that in a press conference, so we won't get any confirmation from the staff. If Sims is going to transfer, expect to hear about it quickly once the semester is over.
DeAndrew White was limited in the first scrimmage with a hamstring, but led all receivers in the second scrimmage with five receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. In a lot of practices over the last two years White looked like the best wide receiver on the team. He apparently struggled a good bit with nerves when Bama went to Penn State, and never really seemed to get things going again after starting in week one. The physical tools are there, though, and with Bama needing guys to fill the void left by Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks, White is a strong candidate.
Two other guys have seemingly stepped into that void in Christion Jones and Kevin Norwood. Jones had five receptions for 61 yards and two TDs, while Norwood had four receptions for 55 yards. Meanwhile, Kenny Bell has received consistent praise from the coaching staff. So Bama could have four guys primed to have good seasons in the fall.
Cody Mandell had another big day. He seems to have taken the coaching from kicking consultant Greg Zauner and has improved his game - something that should make a lot of folks happy. Through two scrimmages he is averaging 42.2 yards per punt. While, in reality, that is just three yards more than last season's average, that new number would rank him in the top half of the SEC's punters. The place kicking is still iffy, to say the least.
Here are the stats that were released by the University:
A.J. McCarron – 14 for 29, 160 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Jalston Fowler – 22 rushes, 151 yards, 3 TDs
DeAndrew White – 5 rec., 112 yards, 2 TD
Christion Jones – 5 rec., 61 yards, 2 TD
Kevin Norwood – 4 rec., 54 yards
Chris Black – 2 rec., 36 yards
C.J. Mosley – 8 tackles, 1 PBU
Damion Square – 5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks
Dee Milliner – 5 tackles, 1 FF
Trey DePriest – 5 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FR
HaHa Clinton-Dix – 4 tackles, 1 INT
Nick Perry – 4 tackles
Vinnie Sunseri – 4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
Jesse Williams – 4 tackles, 2 TFL
Tana Patrick – 4 tackles
Cody Mandell – 12 punts, 504 yards, 42.0 avg., Long 56
Cade Foster – 3 for 6, Long 50 (Made: 50, 20, 20; Missed: 46, 35, 32)
Bama will practice again on Monday as the Tide looks ahead towards the end of the spring session with A-Day on Saturday. We'll have our normal report.