27 March 2012
The University of Alabama football team had its sixth practice of the 2012 spring session on Monday. The practice was in full pads and, according to Coach Saban, was not a particularly good one.
Here's what you need to know:
There is no reason to panic. Coach Saban acknowledged that every team has a practice or two like this in the middle of the spring. Coach likes to refer to it as the players having the "poor me's".
I neglected to mention Blake Sims being in a black jersey in the last report. The coaching staff begs the players to avoid playing basketball, but according to Coach Saban "some guys think they are going to play in the NBA." Blake injured his hip playing basketball over spring break and is being held out of drills. Once he is cleared by the doctors, I sense Coach Saban's displeasure being made perfectly clear to Blake. With T.J. Yeldon already on campus, and receiving praise from the Coach today, Blake simply can not afford to end up in the dog house.
DeAndrew White has had a bad hamstring all off season and he tweaked it on Saturday. Now isn't the time to push guys too hard through an injury, so he was held out of today's practice.
Eddie Lacy (toe) and Arie Kouandjio (knee) were still in black, and will likely remain that way all spring.
And there is still no sign of Duron Carter, though his father has been present at practice. It's just an odd, odd situation.
One interesting thing to note from personnel groupings is that the staff appears to be working on some specialized groupings with the linebackers. With Bama's depth at that position, it's a great way to get more of those guys on the field. A 1-6-4 look wouldn't work too well, so the only way to get a lot of guys time is take advantage of each guys' strength. With that in mind, as things stand right now, it looks like Nico Johnson and Trey DePriest are the starting guys in the middle with the base 3-4 defense.
Of course, if you've paid much attention the last few years, Bama isn't really in the base that much. More times than not, Bama will line up in the nickel package. In that package it looks like C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest in the middle. And when the Tide goes to the dime, Mosley is the guy in the middle. What I take from that is that the staff has a lot of confidence in Mosley in pass coverage, but more confidence in Johnson against the run. The fact that DePriest is in on both sets gives the appearance that he could be the most versatile guy in the group.
Otherwise, the big story of the day was the announcement that Coach Saban has signed an extension to keep him at Alabama through January of 2020. The extension will also make him the highest paid coach in the country. Raises were also announced for all of the returning assistant coaches except for Jeff Stoutland and Joe Pannunzio - both of whom were named in the Nevin Shapiro scandal at Miami. Coach Saban indicated that he thought that Stoutland deserved a raise based on merit, but that it was impossible to ignore the off the field situation.
Also of note is that new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has signed a three year contract. Both he and Kirby Smart are under contract through the 2015 season. Though I would be very surprised if Kirby isn't the head coach somewhere before the end of that contract.
Not much else to report from a practice that simply lacked the intensity and focus that the staff demands from the players. It will be interesting to see what the team looks like on Wednesday. I would imagine that Coach Saban said what he did to the media was an attempt to see what guys will step forward as leaders and push the other guys around them to expect more from themselves.
We're taking a look at all the Tide's expected contributors ranked from 70-1. We took a look at players ranked 70-60 in the last post, so here's the next group:
59. Blake Sims. As I mentioned above, it's a bad time for a running back at the back of the depth chart to miss time due to injury, or to be in the doghouse. Blake is dealing with both right now. He has a unique skill-set, in that he is a running back that is capable of passing the ball out of the wildcat. A lot of us expected to see that last year, and it never materialized due to some issues with ball security. With another talented running back coming in this fall (Kenyan Drake), Sims can not afford to fall any further behind.
58. Nick Perry. He played in six games as a true freshman, and it looked like he was on his way to being the heir apparant to Mark Barron. Now he has fallen behind Jarrick Williams and both 2011 true freshmen Vinnie Sunseri and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. With Landon Collins coming in this fall, the depth chart is simply getting extremely full at safety. Coach Saban has demonstrated that at safety a full understanding of the defense is more important than pure athleticism (see Will Lowery). The physical ability is there for Perry, but he is simply behind the other three guys, plus Robert Lester, in terms of understanding the defense. The days of a guy like Marcus Carter starting at safety are over at Alabama. Safety is a premier position under Nick Saban and there is a ridiculous amount of talent ahead of him.
57. Brent Calloway. He's a tremendous athlete, but he gets ranked low for not listening to the coaching staff last year and insisting on wasting a year at running back. He has great athleticism and could turn into a great sam linebacker. His speed alone gives him the potential to be a possible rabbit rusher. Imagine how far along in his development he would be if he had spent 2011 at linebacker.
56. Bradley Sylve. Like Calloway, he's making a position change. Unlike Calloway, he let the coaches put him at receiver last year, and volunteered to move to corner when the coaches asked before bowl practice. He's possibly the fastest guy on the team in terms of pure straight-line speed, and that should have him ranked higher. But he's new to the corner position, and there are five pretty talented guys ahead of him that have been playing corner for longer than four months. He could make a mark on special teams, but I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't really see him until 2013.
55. Cade Foster. You have to wonder if he's mentally ready to attempt a big field goal. Jeremy Shelley was able to exorcise his November demons with a record setting performance in the BCS Title Game. Foster is still struggling to make consistent contact. With the kick off line being moved up to the 35, Shelley is likely capable of kicking off now. Even if he's not, Bama is bringing in another big-legged scholarship kicker in Adam Griffith this summer. Cade is still the "long kick" guy, so he's ahead of some pretty good players simply based on his potential importance to the team. Bama has brought in kicking consultant Gary Zauner, but Cade has not seen a major change. If that light comes on, he could fly up this list. If he doesn't, he could potentially disappear from it altogether.
54. Marvin Shinn. Bama was in desperate need of a big receiver last season, and some folks thought Shinn could be the guy. Not every freshman is Julio Jones, though. Let me rephrase that... NO freshman is Julio Jones. Shinn had to deal with some unrealistic expectations last year, and he's just not quite there yet. This is one of those places where you should be shaking your head at the thought of there being 53 guys on one team ranked ahead of this guy. He's a really good athlete that could easily find his way into the rotation this season. He just hasn't managed it quite yet.
53. D.J. Pettway. At 6'2 and 285 lbs. he is still trying to find his position. There was some thought that he might start out at jack last year, but the decision was made to have him gain weight and play end. He's gained enough now that he could potentially get a look at nose guard in pass rush situations. The problem is that he hasn't cemented himself at any one spot yet. He is just a redshirt freshman, so there is still loads of time for him to settle into a spot. There is tremendous depth of the defensive line, and it's fantastic that Bama doesn't have to rush a guy along the line.
52. Wilson Love. He's another redshirt freshman that just hasn't had to be rushed in his development. Wilson is up to 281 lbs., which puts him right about the size to play the strong side end position. He has the type of explosion and mean streak that let Nick Gentry play far above his talent level for years, and I think we will see him develop into a nice pass rusher for the Tide. Him being at #52 is due to there being a bunch of guys along the defensive line that will likely keep him off of the field again this year.
51. Kellen Williams. While he is technically lining up at left tackle with the second unit, he is not who would replace Cyrus Kouandjio if he had to come out of a game. That would like be Barrett Jones, though Bama might slide D.J. Fluker over and work some other guys at right tackle. And then there's the injured Arie Kouandjio who can play multiple positions. Kellen isn't a guy that jumps out at you when watching the line drills. Sometimes for an offensive lineman, especially at left tackle, that's a good thing. The bad thing for Kellen is that offensive line is just not a position where coaches tend to rotate players. So if you aren't in the top 7-8 guys, you aren't likely to play. He is ranked as highly as he is because of the role he is playing in helping to develop the Tide's first string defensive front. Having a quality guy to go up against every day in practice is massively important, and Kellen is a quality player. Five years ago he would have been good enough to play. Now? There's some serious talent in Tuscaloosa.
50. Phillip Ely. If Phillip Sims decides to transfer after the spring semester, Ely will immediately jump 20 spots on this list due to the importance of the backup quarterback. As it is, he's the number three guy right now. And by a good distance. Bama is bringing in a quality quarterback this fall in Alec Morris, and it will be interesting to see how Ely fares against him. The fact that he was one of only three quarterbacks all last season meant he got a lot of time with Jim McElwain. He's still one of just three this spring, but it's likely that new QB coach Doug Nussmeier will spend most of his time focusing on McCarron and Sims. By all accounts Ely is a little limited on talent, but has a full grasp of the offense. In other words, he's a "game manager" type. Bama has won a lot of games with QBs like that, but Phillip is not quite ready yet. He gets a boost to #50 simply because he plays quarterback, but unless Sims transfers, it's doubtful he'll play meaningful snaps in 2012.
The next group will obviously start at #49, and we are rapidly creeping up on guys who would be on the two-deep roster if a game were being played tomorrow.
The Tide will practice again on Wednesday and we'll have our normal report.
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