03 April 2010
The Alabama football team held its first scrimmage of the spring on Friday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Here's what you need to know:
There were some minor bumps and bruises for some guys, but the only serious injury appears to have been an MCL sprain for Nico Johnson. He's expected to miss a handful of practices - I'm guessing all of next week - but won't have to have surgery.
The best news of the day is that Dont'a Hightower not only participated, but was able to go with the first unit. I expected that the staff would hold him out of scrimmage work, but he is clearly much farther along in his recovery than I thought. That's good news for the fall.
The most interesting thing from the scrimmage? Taylor Pharr was working with the punters. The senior offensive lineman was a punter in high school, and when asked about him Coach Saban indicated that he probably had the strongest leg on the team. Having a strong leg is not the same thing as being capable of getting the punt off in time and having good hang time. But it is interesting to see the big guy take a chance at this late in his career. It would also be interesting seeing a 6'6 290 lb. punter.
Having said that, let's throw in the big disclaimer:
Scrimmage stats mean nothing!
Sure, they can be fun to look at. And they can give you an indication as to how active a guy was. But you have to understand that a lot of the work is situational. They don't line up and play a game like on A-Day. They'll run five straight plays out of a 3rd and 7 set, and then spend a half hour running plays from inside the 5 yard line.
They also don't run a ton of plays with the first unit going up against the first unit. They'll mix some of that in, but a good deal of plays are run with the first offense against the second defense, or second offense against the first defense. They'll mix and match guys from various units also.
The coaching staff also decides what stats they want to release. It is certainly not a complete run down of everything that happened. For reference, you will see that Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron completed a combined 35 passes. You'll also see that the "receiving leaders" combined to catch 36 passes.
Basically... it's a practice. And it's used as a practice. So don't read too much in to the stats.
Having said that, the fact that Marcell Dareus had 8 tackles and 4 sacks should scare the absolute hell out of everyone in the SEC. The kid is simply going to be special.
The numbers everyone wants to see are the quarterback numbers, so...
Greg McElroy - 14-22 for 235 yards and 1 touchdown
A.J. McCarron - 21-28 for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns
The good news is that both of Bama's top two guys had a good completion percentage. The bad news is that the defensive backs gave up 35 completions and 4 touchdowns without an interception.
It doesn't surprise me one bit that McCarron had more attempts than McElroy. The staff knows what to expect out of Greg, and they need to see more of A.J. - especially with the first unit. It is a good sign that A.J. is completing that high of a percentage - it means that he's playing with confidence.
But don't look at those numbers and think that there is a quarterback controversy. There isn't. Nick Saban will play the quarterback that gives Alabama the best chance to win, and right now that person is the guy who went 14-0 in 2009. If that changes, it won't be a secret.
The rushing stats provided:
Mark Ingram - 9 for 22
Trent Richardson - 6 for 44, 2 TDs
Eddie Lacy - 9 for 29
Demetrius Goode - 7 for 31
All you can really tell there is that there weren't a whole lot of running plays called. That's not surprising really. Not only does the staff know what they're getting from the backs, but they also know what they've got on the defensive front seven. They need to see how the secondary reacts to game-like situations, and the only real way to do that is to throw the football.
It's good to see Lacy and Goode getting that many carries, simply because that type of competition deep on the depth chart makes everyone better. It is also good to see Trent Richardson have some success despite the hamstring injury that has bothered him all week.
The receiving numbers provided:
Julio Jones - 8 for 105
Preston Dial - 5 for 45
Kenny Bell - 4 for 62
Kendall Kelly - 4 for 39
Marquis Maze - 3 for 56, 1 TD
Kevin Norwood - 3 for 46, 1 TD
Darius Hanks - 2 for 49
Trent Richardson - 3 for 44
Who is shocked that Julio led the team? Who is shocked that a tight end and a back were also among the leaders? Not much stands out here really, other than the fact that Preston Dial looks to be building on a really solid 2009 season.
It's good to see guys like Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood involved, but it's really unknown who their receptions came against. If they were against the first unit, then that's a good sign. If they came against the walk-ons, then it doesn't mean much.
It is nice to see that Kendall Kelly caught passes simply because he's spent a great deal of his time this spring at safety. I would guess the staff tried to get him involved to try to make up as many reps in the scrimmage as they could. It will be very interesting to watch how he develops over the summer. He was injured for most of last season, but the fact that the staff was willing to try the safety experiment with him first tells me that they think a lot of his ability.
Defensive leaders provided:
Marcell Dareus - 8 tackles, 4 sacks
B.J. Scott - 6 tackles, 2 PBU
Mark Barron - 5 tackles
Jerrell Harris - 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU
Dre Kirkpatrick - 4 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 Sack
Dont'a Hightower - 3 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 Sack
Chavis Williams - 3 tackles, 2 sacks
Josh Chapman - 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack
Apparently B.J. Scott got a lot of work with the first team and Coach Saban commented on how well he performed. If he is able to lock down that spot it will go a long way towards Bama having the type of secondary it needs in 2010.
Chavis Williams having two sacks is interesting, though it is unknown which offensive line they came against. He has shown significant improvement in the weight room this off season, and if he is able to maintain his quickness off of the edge, he could become a component of the rabbit rusher package.
I still think Josh Chapman is going to surprise a lot of people by simply not allowing much of a drop off from Terrence Cody.
Aside from the touchdowns listed above, there were also touchdowns listed in the stats provided for Michael Williams (11 yards from McCarron) and walkon tight end John David Baites (5 yards from McCarron).
Early enrollee Cade Foster was 2 of 4 in FG opportunities, with makes from 42 and 38, and misses from 39 and 56. According to Coach Saban the 56 yarder was short by "about a foot." The fact that he made a 40+ kick in his first scrimmage is a good sign. He needs to continue to develop, but it's clear he has a big leg.
Sophomore Jeremy Shelley made his only attempt, a 30 yarder.
Sadly there were no punting stats released for Pharr.
All in all Coach Saban seemed to be pretty pleased, and there were no major injuries. When you exit the first scrimmage of the spring those are the two things you want to hear.
One bit of bad news for the Tide - cornerback signee Dequan Menzie suffered an achilles injury playing pick up basketball. He had surgery and is expected to miss the 2010 season. It is unknown at this point whether he will enroll this summer as planned, though I would guess that he would. He can still learn the defense during the '10 season and be ready to go by next spring.
There is still no official word from the University on the rumored game with Texas Tech for 2012. The folks from Tech are saying that a verbal agreement has been reached, but word from Tuscaloosa is that things are not official yet. The rumors have Bama opening the '12 season against Tommy Tuberville and the Red Raiders at the new Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
The team will be off this weekend so that players can travel home for the holiday. They'll be back in action again on Monday with another scrimmage scheduled for Saturday. We'll have our normal reports.