12 August 2011
The University of Alabama football team practiced twice on Friday in final preparation for the first scrimmage of the fall camp. The morning practice was in full pads and inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility. The evening practice was held outside and in shells.
Here's what you need to know:
As expected, Dont'a Hightower practiced in both sessions without limitation one day after having surgery to repair a fractured hand. He isn't expected to miss any time, but likely will wear a cast through most of the season. Patrick Willis had a great final season at Ole Miss wearing a cast, so there is precedent for an SEC linebacker to do so. As camp progresses, Dont'a is becoming more and more vocal in his leadership.
Ryan Kelly was absent again as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered during last Sunday's practice. My guess is that he isn't likely to go again until next week.
William Vlachos missed his second consecutive practice due to an illness. It's nothing serious, and I am guessing that we'll see him on Monday, as well.
Undra Billingsley did return to practice today after missing the last three days with an illness. He worked in both sessions without limitation, so whatever it was seems to have cleared up.
For the second consecutive day Barrett Jones made the move from left tackle to replace Vlachos at center. That opened the left tackle spot and once again true freshman Cyrus Kouandjio took the majority of the reps with the first unit. He is progressing far more quickly than most people expected, and it's still a possibility that he could earn the starting job.
It's not totally dependant on his performance. Part of what is allowing Jones to move to left tackle is the development of Anthony Steen at right guard. So the determining factor might simply be - is the Tide better with Jones and Steen? or is the Tide better with Jones and Kouandjio. Barrett is capable of playing either spot, so it's probably a Steen vs. Kouandjio battle, despite the fact that the guys play separate positions.
It is worth noting that Bama spent time working on an unbalanced offensive line formation that would likely be for short yardage and goal line situations. The formation had Arie Kouandjio at right tackle, with D.J. Fluker swapping over to left tackle, and Cyrus Kouandjio lining up outside of Fluker at what would technically be a tight end position. While that would seem Bama would be telegraphing a run to the left, a run that was led by Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, Cyrus Kouandjio, and then likely Michael Williams would probably work even if you told the opponent exactly what play you were running. It wouldn't shock me to see Bama change the formation a bit when Vlachos returns; plugging Jones in place of Fluker and moving Fluker into the fullback role that Terrance Cody played in short yardage.
You can expect that Bama will be on high guard during the scrimmage tomorrow, after the terrible news from the scrimmage held by Arkansas on Thursday. If you didn't hear, potential All-American running back Knile Davis was lost for the season due to what is being calling a severe ankle injury. Early reports out of Fayetteville were calling it a massive compound fracture of the leg a few inches above the ankle. That's an injury similar to the one suffered by Tyrone Prothro. Hopefully things will fare better for Davis. He's not just a heck of a player, but by all accounts is a terrific young man.
The first scrimmage of the fall camp is a big one, as it allows the staff to figure out exactly where the team is, and what direction they need to move in going forward. Typically we'll see a decent amount of movement in the organizational (depth) chart after a scrimmage. Don't get caught up in the stats, though. First of all, the stats are never complete statistics. But even more so, there is no context for the numbers. Bama will run situational formations. There will be goal line plays. There will be two-minute drill plays. So don't fall in love with any one player based on scrimmage numbers.
Having said all of that, here's our best guess as to how the depth chart would look if tomorrow was actually the first game:
Quarterback - A.J. McCarron, Phillip Sims, Blake Sims, Phillip Ely. There's no reason why McCarron is ahead other than game experience and the fact that someone has to take the first snap.
Running Back - Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy, Jalston Fowler, Brent Calloway, Christion Jones
Tight End Y - Michael Williams, Brian Vogler, Malcolm Faciane
Tight End H - Brad Smelley, Chris Underwood
Wide Receiver Z - Marquis Maze, Kenny Bell, Bradly Sylve
Wide Receiver H - Brandon Gibson, Kevin Norwood, Ronald Carswell (Darius Hanks would be the starter if eligible for game one)
Wide Receiver X - DeAndrew White, Michael Bowman, Marvin Shinn
Left Tackle - Barrett Jones, Cyrus Kouandjio, Tyler Love
Left Guard - Chance Warmack, John Michael Boswell, Ryan Kelly
Center - William Vlachos, Kellen Williams, Isaac Luatua
Right Guard - Anthony Steen, Chad Lindsay, Austin Shepherd
Right Tackle - D.J. Fluker, Alfred McCullough, Arie Kouandjio
Left Defensive End - Ed Stinson, Jesse Williams, Undra Billingsley, Anthony Orr, D.J. Pettway
Defensive Tackle - Josh Chapman, Nick Gentry, Brandon Ivory, LaMichael Fanning
Right Defensive End - Damion Square, Quinton Dial, Chris Bonds, Jeoffrey Pagan, Wilson Love
Jack Linebacker - Courtney Upshaw, Adrian Hubbard, Xzavier Dickson, William Ming
Mike Linebacker - Dont'a Hightower, Chris Jordan, Trey DePriest
Will Linebacker - Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley, Tana Patrick
Sam Linebacker - Jerrell Harris, Alex Watkins, Jonathan Atchison
Left Corner - DeMarcus Milliner, DeQuan Menzie, Phelon Jones
Free Safety - Mark Barron, Jarrick Williams, Hasean Clinton-Dix
Strong Safety - Robert Lester, Will Lowery, Nick Perry, Vinnie Sunseri
Right Corner - Dre Kirkpatrick, John Fulton, Jabriel Washington
If you want to know why Bama is expected to content for a national title, just reread the defense. When you have 14 scholarship players, all SEC-caliber, to play a three man defensive front, you are in good shape. When you throw in guys like C.J. Mosley and Chris Jordan as backup linebackers, its becomes a joke. When you have DeQuan Menzie, Jarrick Williams, and Hasean Clinton-Dix as potential nickel and dime players, you begin to look like you are playing a video game. This defense is talented, it's athletic, and it is deep as hell.
There are not a lot of new guys that would be on the two-deep roster, which is really not a shock this early in camp. It's also a good thing. The less freshman that you have to play, the better. If you have one that is simply too good to keep off of the field (Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson), then you are in good shape. But when you are counting on a freshman to come in and win a job, it's typically not a good thing.
As it stands, the only freshman that I think would be on the two deep is Cyrus Kouandjio. And even in his case, it would not shock me to see Alfred McCullough listed as the #2 at left tackle, with Arie Kouandjio in at the #2 right tackle.
Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial are both newcomers, but there is a different standard for junior college guys.
I don't expect we'll see this same list when everyone is preparing for the scrimmage a week from Saturday. I think we'll probably see a surprise climb or two. As well as (hopefully) the addition of a junior college wide receiver to the mix.
While we still await the clearance of Duron Carter, unofficial word came out of Tuscaloosa that star basketball recruit Trevor Lacey has been cleared to enroll and participate. That's huge news for Anthony Grant's team, as Lacey is considered to be one of the most dynamic incoming scorers in the nation.
Bama will scrimmage at 2:30 tomorrow afternoon, and we'll have our normal report, plus some stats.
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