29 March 2010
After a day off on Sunday the Alabama football team went back to work on Monday for practice number six of the spring practice session. The full pads practice was held outside as the players focus in on Friday's first scrimmage of the spring. The weather in Tuscaloosa today was simply sublime.
Here's what you need to know:
The injury situation is still looking good. William Vlachos and Milton Talbert are both in black, but that has been the case all spring. Everyone else is good to go, including Trent Richardson with his hamstring strain and all three guys recovering from major knee surgery - Dont'a Hightower, Damion Square, and Jeramie Griffin.
Star Jackson was once again absent due to an academic issue. It is important to note that this is a team suspension, and not a school or NCAA suspension. He is still eligible by school and NCAA rules, but has been suspended from practice for not meeting the team's academic requirements. The longer this academic suspension continues, the better the chances are that Jackson winds up elsewhere.
There were some interesting groupings today, especially on the offensive line. After seeing Alfred McCullough at right tackle and John Michael Boswell at left guard all spring, today we saw D.J. Fluker at right tackle and Chance Warmack at left guard. Before everyone goes crazy and assumes this means that there has been a change on the first unit, Coach Saban warns us against making those leaps. This could simply be an attempt to challenge each of these guys by giving them looks with the first team. If they are still working with the first unit after Saturday's scrimmage, then we can start speculating that about a possible change in the lineup.
The coaching staff looks to be taking advantage of Jerrell Harris's ability to play multiple linebacker positions. In today's practice he worked at the will, the sam, and even the money position (extra defensive back in the dime). Though, really, if a linebacker is playing that position, doesn't it actually just make it the nickel defense?
Harris has the athleticism to drop into coverage, and would certainly be good in run support from that position. He worked a little bit at this spot last year, though we never saw it in game action. This sort of personnel grouping allows for additional flexibility and deception against opposing offenses.
The beneficiary of Harris moving around could be Chris Jordan, who continues to get a lot of reps at both the mike and will linebacker spots, and even some at the sam today. Jordan has played in every game during the last two seasons, and appears poised to make a move into the playing rotation.
I'm guessing that Dont'a Hightower isn't going to participate in scrimmages this spring, and Jordan will be the guy who gets the majority of the snaps in his place. What will be interesting to watch is where he and Nico Johnson line up. Johnson started several games at the will last season, but has the makeup to be the mike of the future. Jordan has spent the majority of his practice time during the last two season at the mike, but could possibly see the field earlier at the will. Linebacker groupings are tough to read in practice, so this will be interesting to keep an eye on through A-Day.
Kendall Kelly was back with the safeties, and Brandon Gibson with the wide receivers. Coach Saban insists that this is just organizational and an attempt to build extra depth at the position. Not to doubt him, but Kelly has now spent five of the six practices at the position, and it's not like he's got a ton of experience at wide receiver. It will be very interesting to see where he lines up during scrimmages.
I was asked about the nose guard position after Saturday's practice... so here you go:
Bama will be just fine at nose guard. Not many teams can lose a two-time All-American and be just fine, but the Tide has good depth at the position. Josh Chapman and Kerry Murphy are the top two guys at the spot, and they are both very capable. They play a little different technique than Cody, with both guys lining up directly opposite the center, but the scheme will be adjusted to account for that.
The Tide has several other players who are capable of sliding inside and taking snaps here, as well, including Darrington Sentimore and Brandon Moore. When Bama goes to its rabbit rusher package, look for Marcell Dareus to slide inside along with one of the other ends - my guess is Damion Square.
Murphy and Chapman are both capable of playing on third down and creating a more consistent pass rush than what we saw from Cody over the last two years. They are quite as dominating in run support, but they should both be sufficient. In other words, don't expect teams to suddenly be able to run at will against the Tide. Chapman played a lot more snaps over the last two years than most folks realize, simply because Terrence Cody couldn't go more than three or four plays in a row. Teams still had trouble running the ball between the tackles with Chapman in the game.
Bama will be off on Tuesday, before practicing again on Wednesday. The spring's first scrimmage is set for Friday. We'll have our normal reports.
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