06 August 2011
The Alabama football team held its second practice of its first if fall camp for the 2011 season on Friday night. The split squad practice was made up of mostly under classmen and newcomers, and due to rain in Tuscaloosa, was held inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility.
Here's what you need to know:
Brent Calloway received the good news from the NCAA Clearinghouse between practices and was able to join the team for the night practice. He was alongside walk-on Nick Tinker, as all of the Tide's other backs worked in the morning session. That works to his advantage as it means that he received considerably more one-on-one work with Burton Burns. He is behind most of the other incoming freshmen because of the fact that he had to finish some academic work, and that one-on-one time with the nation's best assistant coach (seriously, look at how all of his players at Bama and Clemson progressed during their careers) could help him play catch up in a hurry. If Eddie Lacy does have to miss time, Calloway could be counted on early in the season. Either way, he reported at 217 lbs., which is right where the Tide staff likes for their bigger backs to be.
Unfortunately Duron Carter was not at practice. As Coach Saban indicated in his morning press conference, there are still some paperwork issues being dealt with for Carter. Those paperwork issues can sometimes last a while - just ask Le'Ron McClain, who waited until three days before the first game to finally get clearance. With Darius Hanks missing the first two games due to an NCAA rule (not a violation, but a bylaw having to do with his medical redshirt), Bama needs all of the wide receiver help that they can get. Carter has big game experience at Ohio State and could be an immediate contributor. He's been here since the beginning of July working in voluntary drills, but he needs to be at practice. Hopefully this issue won't linger past this weekend.
Danny Woodson, Jr. was also absent from practice. Coach Saban indicated that he could possibly join the team if a spot opened up. That likely means that Bama is full scholarship wise, and Woodson will greyshirt. If Carter doesn't get cleared for some reason, it might not help Woodson, as most people think that Carter is actually paying his own way. Woodson was made aware of the greyshirt possibility when before he signed, which was likely why it took him as long to commit as it did.
It was not a huge shock to see Cyrus Kouandjio taking snaps at left tackle. He's going to be the Tide's left tackle at some point during his career. I doubt it will be this year, but the kid is the prototype for the position. He reported at 6'6 and 322 lbs. (down 17 from signing day) and he is quick on his feet with long arms. He doesn't look like a freshman physically, but there is a lot that goes into the mental aspect of playing left tackle in the SEC, and he is a freshman there. It's not impossible that he winds up starting from day one, but the talent level on campus was considerably less when Andre Smith did it.
It was surprising to see Ryan Kelly getting work at right tackle. Pretty much everyone had him penciled in as an interior guy, and most likely a center. He reported at 6'5, though, which might have him grown out of the middle. At that size, it makes sense that they would at least give him a look at tackle. Isaac Luatua is just 6'2, and he's the other interior line prospect from this class. So if Luatua gets a solid look at center, that frees Kelly up to move around a bit. There has been a tendency on the defensive side to see guys start out on the outside and then move them inside. That might be what we're seeing with Kelly, as I still think his ultimate position is guard.
Xzavier Dickson is getting his first look at linebacker. The Tide lists him in the media guide as a DL/LB, but at just 240 lbs., he seems more suited for linebacker in a 3-4. They did not go into specific groupings during the media viewing period, but I would guess that we will see him start out at the jack position. With Courtney Upshaw firmly planted there, and Dont'a Hightower a possibility to move there if Upshaw went down, there isn't likely to be a lot of immediate help needed at that position. So that would give him time to grow into the spot and learn from the first real jack linebacker that Coach Saban has had at Alabama.
Hasean Clinton-Dix, as expected, started out at safety, and turned heads almost immediately. This kid is a supremely gifted athlete, and the only thing standing between him and early playing time is that Bama returns its top five safeties from 2010. This kid might find his way onto the field early on the special teams groupings, and if Will Lowery, Nick Perry, and Jarrick Williams don't come out hard in camp, he could find his way into the rotation early. He seems built to play the money role in the dime defense.
Malcolm Faciane is a big kid, reporting at 6'5 and 259 lbs. It's likely that he'll work in "Y" tight end position, which is the traditional tight end spot. He's quick enough that he might get a look at the "H" spot, but his frame looks like he could become a 270+ monster on the end of the line. He had a knee injury that some thought would limit him early, but he wasn't even wearing a brace.
LaMichael Fanning started out working with Brandon Ivory, indicating that he could be destined for time with the nose guards. At 6'7 and 275 lbs., he's the most imposing figure in this freshman class. At that size I am honestly a bit surprised that there has not been more talk of giving him a look at offensive tackle, but it looks like he is defense all the way. That's a big, big kid lining up in the middle. Thomas Rayam big. He could see his first playing time come on the field goal block unit, where he could see his name linked with Rayam again (look up Alabama at Penn State from 1989 if you don't know the name).
Coach Saban listed Christion Jones as a guy who could potentially get a look at running back, but it looks like Calloway getting cleared allowed Jones to start out at wide receiver. He looks lean and athletic. Most folks thought he would start out at corner, and this might simply be a case of letting him start at the position where he wants to play. I am guessing he ends up at corner, but he was excellent two-way player at Minor High School.
Jeoffrey Pagan reported at 6'4 and 272 lbs. and is the lineman that I think stands the best chance of earning early playing time. He is lightning quick off of the ball, and could end up on Bama's rabbit rusher group. He looks like a college football player.
D.J. Pettway isn't much different size wise, at 6'2 and 272, but it just looks different on him. He looks like he might ultimately end up in the middle, depending on whether or not he gains more weight. It's not a knock on him to say that he's not as physically impressive as Pagan. That's more of a compliment to Pagan.
Marvin Shinn looks solidly built at 6'3 AND 193 lbs., though when you are used to your tall wide receivers looking like Julio Jones or Michael Bowman, that weight is going to look a little thin. He is an outside guy all way, and looks to have the athleticism to make that work.
Bradley Sylve might be a little small at 170 lbs., but the kid can flat out fly. He and DeAndrew White would probably have a big battle with Marquis Maze and DeMarcus Milliner for the title of the team's fastest player. Sometimes guys that size struggle to maintain their speed with pads on, so it will be interesting to see if he can do that once the team starts practicing in pads. As of now, he is extremely quick off of the ball.
Jabriel Washington worked at corner, which is where most people expected him to start out. He could potentially get a look on offense, because he has been electric with the ball in his hands. But when Nick Saban wants you to start at corner, it's typically a good idea to listen.
Among returning players, there were no real surprises. As we anticipated, Blake Sims worked primarily at quarterback, with a few running back reps mixed in. He's switched to #6 and gained 17 lbs. (up to 212) since the spring. He'll likely continue to work at quarterback, though I am guessing most of his actual QB snaps will be in the wildcat. That should benefit the offense, though, as he will have worked enough at quarterback that Alabama will have more than two or three plays as options out of that formation. It would be incorrect to say that the entire playbook would be available for Sims, as he won't be getting enough reps to have the entire playbook down. But he should get enough that we will see more than just the speed sweep and zone read plays that we have seen in the past couple of years.
The Tide will practice again on Saturday at 2:30, this time as a full unit. We'll have our normal report.
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