05 August 2010
Football season is now upon us, as the University of Alabama football team took to the practice field for the first time this morning! As has been the case during Nick Saban's tenure, the first day of two-a-days practices sees the team split into two groups, with each group going just once. This morning's practice was all veteran players (with one exception), with the younger guys (and true freshman) going tonight. The first few practices will be in shorts, jerseys, and helmets, which means there won't be any contact, but instead a lot of fundamental work.
Here's what you need to know:
Everyone participated fully in the practice. There were no players in black jerseys, except for the quarterback. The Tide's injury situation looks to be great at the beginning of fall camp.
While both Dont'a Hightower and Damion Square participated in the spring after their 2009 knee surgeries, they both looked far more comfortable today. They are still wearing knee braces, though that's probably not going to change no matter how far away from their surgery they get. Their participation in the spring was huge from a mental standpoint, as they were able to build confidence in their surgically repaired knees. At this point neither guys looks limited. The third player who had 2009 knee surgery was Jeramie Griffin, and he is expected to practice tonight.
William Vlachos missed all of the spring after having foot surgery, but he was good to go this morning. He moved without any noticeable sign of having had surgery, or any noticeable sign of time away. He worked with the first grouping at center.
Dre Kirkpatrick had off season should surgery, but you wouldn't have known it by the way he practiced. He also showed no limitation and looked confident. He'll have another hurdle to jump when contact drills start, but he's such a confident kid that I don't expect there to be any problems.
The one very noticeable participant in this morning's practice was DeQuan Menzie. Why was he noticeable? Not only was he the only newcomer to be with the veterans, but he's recovering from an April achilles tendon tear that a lot of folks thought would keep him out for the entire year. He doesn't look to be limited at all, and made one very athletic leaping one handed catch.
While there is no news from the NCAA regarding the eligibility of Marcell Dareus, he was at practice today, and he worked with the first personnel grouping on the defensive line. Cecil Hurt tweeted last night that he was expecting good news on the Dareus front soon. Cecil's got the best sources in the business, and he's also typically cautious. Until we hear officially from the NCAA we won't know for sure, but things look promising for Marcell.
With Rod Woodson having left the team, Bama is thin at the safety position. That was evident this morning when the Tide had just four guys practicing at the position - Mark Barron, Robert Lester, Wes Neighbors, and Will Lowery. Lowery worked with the first group a lot during the spring, so that's no shock. Neighbors being there brings up another interesting point.
Neighbors is on the Bryant Scholarship, which means that he doesn't count towards the 85 limit unless he plays. So if the Tide staff think that it's possible that Neighbors might play, there will have to be another scholarship cleared. His participation in this morning's practice doesn't guarantee anything in regards to playing time, but the Tide's lack of depth at the position has to make this come into the discussion.
While it's certainly too early to mention Coach Saban's least favorite words - "depth chart" - the personnel groupings can give us an indication as to where some guys are running. And if today's practice was any indication, it looks like D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack are still running with the first group on the offensive line. Fluker looks to be in the best shape of his career at Alabama, and created a good deal of buzz around the practice field with his conditioning.
Overall the conditioning looks to be great. As long as Nick Saban and Scott Cochran are around, we won't have to worry about that, but there has been some concern among Bama fans about the team possibly becoming complacent after last season's National Championship. A team's conditioning is typically a great indication of how hard they've worked, and the fourth quarter program appears to have done its job again.
ESPN is in town filming an all-access segment, and they were all over the place at practice. I'm not sure how long they'll be around, but it was odd to see a camera strapped to the head of Greg McElroy and Jim McElwain.
Mark Ingram might miss some practice time later this week as he travels home for the funeral of his grandfather. It's been a tough year off of the field for Mark, but he seems to have an amazing ability to separate himself from that on the football field.
Tonight's practice is always the most anticipated one of the fall, as we get a chance to see the newcomers in action for the first time. The forecast for tonight includes rain, so there's a good chance that practice will move inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility. We'll have our normal report.
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