25 August 2010
The Alabama football team worked outdoors on Wednesday afternoon. The Tide was in full pads as they look to close out the preseason.
Here's what you need to know:
Everyone was cleared for contact. Last week at this time it looked like DeMarcus Milliner might not be ready to go by the San Jose State game. Today he was back in a red jersey and was moving well.
He's fallen a bit behind with the week and a half of missed practice, but don't be shocked to see him quickly move back up the depth chart and possibly earn playing time in the nickel and dime packages.
Dre Kirkpatrick was back working with the first group at cornerback after missing some time on Tuesday with an undisclosed injury. He paired with BJ Scott in the base defense, as it begins to look more and more like they will be the guys once the season opens.
In the base defense there is still a major battle going on between Robert Lester and Will Lowery for the safety spot opposite Mark Barron. Interestingly enough, when Bama is going to nickel and dime, they are both playing safety, with Barron sliding down to the star position. I still think we'll eventually see DeQuan Menzie take over the star position, but the timing of that will be dependant upon his health.
Jarrick Williams was working at the money spot when the team went to the dime defense, which is a big move for the true freshman. Last week we saw Nick Perry in this spot. Both of those guys have benefited from Milliner being out, but now that he's back, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.
Milliner played safety in high school, but after enrolling in January, he was moved to corner. With the money position being a hybrid corner/safety role, he seems like a natural fit for the position.
Jerrell Harris worked with the inside linebackers again on Wednesday, spending a good deal of time on the field when Bama went to the nickel package. The sam linebacker is typically the guy who exits when the fourth linebacker is replaced by a fifth defensive back. Harris is a versatile guy, and he seems to have a real grasp on the pass coverage aspect of playing the will - more so than either Chris Jordan or Nico Johnson.
We could very well see Harris come off of the bench to play this spot, as he's not the guaranteed starter at the sam position. Chavis Williams has had a great offseason, and looks poised to finally cash in on the promise that he showed as a true freshman. If Williams wins that spot, Harris would then likely be the "starter" at the will in nickel and the backup at the sam in the base.
Alabama is young at the linebacker spot, but incredibly deep. If the starting four guys in the base end up being Dont'a Hightower and Chris Jordan in the middle, with Courtney Upshaw and Chavis Williams on the outside, we could potentially see a couple of other players be starters in different packages. On top of Harris being the guy in the nickel, Ed Stinson could be a starter in the rabbit rusher package. If Ed isn't that guy it will likely be because Dont'a Hightower is, and if that happens, we could see Nico Johnson play the middle.
That's potentially seven different guys with a real shot to play meaningful snaps at the linebacker position. When you consider that Hightower and Upshaw are unlikely to leave the field, you really start to see the type of depth that the Bama staff has built. When you add in the fact that Williams is the only senior in that group, you have to think that linebacker will continue to be a strength for Bama for years to come.
For the second consecutive day the first unit offensive line has seen Barrett Jones at right tackle and Alfred McCullough at right guard. It seem unfathomable that DJ Fluker could have the right tackle spot during all of spring practice and through both fall scrimmages, only to lose the starting job less than two weeks before the beginning of the season. There is no guarantee that he has lost it, either.
Coach Saban is adamant that there is still no depth chart, and there is no telling what is happening after the media is ushered out of practice. Fluker is still a major talent, and he is just a redshirt freshman. This is another situation where the staff has built incredible depth, and it might just be that Alfred McCullough has done enough to prove to the staff that he is ready to be an every down guy.
There also continues to be a good battle going on with the defensive line. Both Josh Chapman and Kerry Murphy have had a lot of reps with the first group. That's also the case at defensive end, where both Luther Davis and Damion Square are getting time with the 1s. There is likely to be a ton of rotation on the defensive line, so this is likely a case of the staff wanting to give a lot of guys time with the first group, as it's likely that they'll all end up taking game snaps with that group.
Interestingly enough, Marcell Dareus is still getting all of the first team reps at his defensive end spot. The NCAA has still not made a ruling on his eligibility, though you have to take the fact that he's practiced with the first group every single day of practice as a sign that the staff is confident that he'll be cleared.
Bama will practice again on Thursday, and we'll have our normal report.
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