26 August 2011
The University of Alabama football team went back to work for its second full squad of the 2011 season on Thursday. The staff decided to give the team a bit of a break from the blistering afternoon heat, and the full pads practice (for some) was held inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility.
Here's what you need to know:
Coach Saban indicated that Kellen Williams was still in black due to a "twisted ankle." That's a good sign, and Coach Saban indicated that he is hopeful that Kellen will be able to play next Saturday. That's probably as close as we'll get to hearing Coach Saban talk about playing a lot of guys because of a blow out.
Brandon Lewis was absent from practice due to a death in his family. He is expected back soon, though it would not shock me for him to be excused until Monday's practice.
Otherwise, everyone practiced without limitation. Only the quarterbacks were in black.
One noticeable change was Phelon Jones working with the first unit at corner instead of DeMarcus Milliner. Phelon has had a great camp and Coach Saban has said on multiple occasions that he feels like Bama has four guys capable of starting at corner - with Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie being the other two. If Jones does manage to find his way into the starting lineup, it all but guarantees that he'll be drafted in April's NFL Draft. Throw in Menzie and very likely Kirkpatrick and Bama could have three corners drafted. Mark Barron is a likely first round pick, and a lot of folks seem to think that Robert Lester could forgo his senior season for the draft. That would mean that Bama could have five defensive backs taken in the 2012 NFL Draft. Wow!
Duron Carter was still not at practice, though Coach Saban actually had more than usual to say about that:
You know, I have some information, but at this point, I'll believe it when I see it. Is that fair? Can you read between the lines at all?
I'm not sure whether to take that to mean that he's hopeful that we'll see Duron on Friday, or to take it to mean that the Coach has been given so many optimistic forecasts that he's not getting excited until Duron is at practice. A lot of internet buzz has indicated that Monday could be the day, but I can't for the life of me figure out why the first Monday of class would magically be the day. Word is that the University is still waiting on a completed transcript from a junior college.
Coach Saban indicated that Jesse Williams has been working some at nose guard, despite the fact that he hasn't been doing so during the media viewing period. Most people thought that nose guard would be his position at Alabama, and it's been a bit of a surprise to see him only playing defensive end. Josh Chapman will still be the starter, and I still think we'll see Nick Gentry on passing downs. But at this point, I think we'll see Williams have a role similar to that of Kerry Murphy in 2010. He'll play primarily at end, but he'll also take a good number of snaps at nose guard. With Chapman gone in 2012, he'll be the presumptive starter at the nose guard, so progress made at that position is a bonus for the future.
Dont'a Hightower was wearing a larger wrap on his surgically repaired hand than we've seen in recent days, though that was likely to combat some soreness. He has indicated that he does not want to play with a cast on his hand, but the staff might want him to do so during the first three games of the season. While the Penn State game is big from a national media standpoint, the reality is that Bama's season starts with week four and the Arkansas game. Certainly no one wants to see a loss at State College, but if the Tide wins the SEC, they will play for the BCS Championship. So we might see some conservative things from the staff leading up to the Arkansas game.
It still looks like we'll see Barrett Jones take the first snaps of the season at left tackle. I still think we will see Cyrus Kouandjio get some time there against Kent State, and I think that some of that time will come with the first team, with Jones sliding in to left guard. We will probably see a bit of a Kouandjio bookend line, with Arie at right tackle, later in the game. But expect to see Cyrus in the first half with the first unit.
Bama will practice again on Friday afternoon, and we'll have our normal report.
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