06 April 2011
The Alabama football team went back to work on Wednesday after one day off. We've had more than one day off here at the Bama Sports Report, but things will hopefully be back on track for the balance of the spring. The full pads practice was held outside in fantastic Tuscaloosa weather.
Here's what you need to know:
Bama has still only suffered one major injury this spring, losing senior linebacker Alex Watkins to a knee injury. It's a shame for Watkins, as he has transformed himself over the last two years into a guy who was likely to be the primary backup to Courtney Upshaw at the jack this fall.
Three years ago Watkins was on pretty much everyone's list (including mine) of guys that would likely transfer out of the program. Instead, all he's done is work his butt off, be a great leader on the field and in the weight room, and he's proven all of us wrong. He was a stalwart on special teams last season, and will hopefully continue that role in the fall.
Coach Saban indicated that his surgery was not as major as early reports indicated, and the staff has strong hopes that he will be ready to go in the fall. He used a redshirt year already, so if he is unable to go in the fall, he would be a prime candidate for a medical hardship at that time.
Tyler Love suffered a concussion early last week and has been withheld from contact since. As we saw with Andrew Steele on the men's basketball team (and with major league baseball's new concussion rules), doctors are becoming extremely cautious with concussions. Love has been moving around between tackle and center, and is currently working with the third team at left tackle. Don't be shocked if he is withheld from contact for the rest of the spring just to be on the safe side.
While Love has been in the program long enough to be known quantity, he is missing valuable reps with new offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
Dre Kirkpatrick suffered some sort of right wrist injury in Saturday's scrimmage, causing him to wear a brace during the last two practices. He's not being withheld from contact, so it's not an injury to really be concerned with.
The same can be said of minor injuries to D.J. Fluker and Josh Chapman, who were noticeably limited in Monday's practice. They both moved much more freely during Wednesday's practice, and should be fine for Friday's practice and Saturday's scrimmage.
Mark Barron (pectoral), Jarrick Williams (shoulder), Nick Perry (shoulder), Jonathan Atchison (bicep), and Brad Smelley (wrist) all continue to work in black jerseys, but all of them are going through individual drills. In fact, Williams was working alongside Barron with the first unit defense - ahead of Robert Lester.
Coach Saban would warn us against making depth chart assumptions based on drill groupings, but it says something significant about Williams' progression that he's working ahead of a guy that had a team high eight interceptions in 2010. It's possible, though, that Williams is working there to get extra reps, in place of some that his injury might have caused him to miss earlier in the spring.
One of the primary position battles this spring is left tackle, where senior Alfred McCullough continues to work ahead of incoming junior college transfer Aaron Douglas. McCullough started several games at right tackle in 2010 when D.J. Fluker was out, and also has game experience at left tackle and both guard spots. While McCullough isn't quite as athletic as Douglas, he has the experience and knowledge to make up for it. Douglas is still a little light (10-15 pounds), and the summer conditioning program should take care of that.
Once the fall rolls around Cyrus Kouandjio will be thrown into the mix and the Tide will have three legitimate candidates to replace James Carpenter at the position. Ideally Kouandjio will redshirt, but the goods news is that if he does play, it won't be by default - he will have beaten out two experience upper classmen.
The rest of the first unit offensive line looks to be unchanged from 2010, with Chance Warmack at left guard, William Vlachos at center, Barrett Jones at right guard, and Fluker at right tackle. What is interesting to note is that at times during the first week of practice we saw Arie Kouandjio take first team reps ahead of Warmack.
For the last couple of practices Arie has been working at third team right tackle, behind Fluker and Austin Shepherd. Shepherd was a little heralded recruit who has made great strides over the last six months to put himself in a position to compete. Also little heralded was Kellen Williams, who has been working behind Vlachos at center.
Rounding out the second group are Anthony Steen at left guard and John Michael Boswell at right guard.
The big question facing the Tide this offseason is - Who will replace Greg McElroy at quarterback? The answer at this point appears to be A.J. McCarron AND Phillip Sims. Coach Saban is adamant about the fact that both guys are getting equal reps, and their numbers from Saturday's scrimmage were pretty similar. Coach Saban even indicated in his post scrimmage press conference that the staff is discussing the possibility of using both guys. I am not convinced that we will actually see that once Bama gets to the meat of the schedule, but it would not surprise me at all to see Bama head into the Penn State game with both guys having played meaningful snaps in week one.
Bama will practice again Friday, and we will have our normal report.