01 September 2011
The University of Alabama football team held its final practice of the first game week that will have a media viewing period. The practice was held in shells and in the same type of blistering heat that is expected on Saturday.
Here's what you need to know:
For the second time this week the Crimson Tide welcomed a new player to the team. Danny Woodson, Jr. was expected to grayshirt and join the team in January, but he enrolled for classes on Wednesday and practiced with the team on Wednesday afternoon. Why the late enrollment? Coach Saban said the following:
We had other promises that we made to other people in recruiting that maybe could have qualified or been available to come and participate on our team. So until we exhausted those possibilities, we had made a promise to Danny to bring him if we could, and when those things didn’t work out, we brought him in. That’s kinda the story about that without being specific to who it was. There’s a couple really good walk-on players on our team, Will Lowery and a couple other guys that do a great job that we could have rewarded them with a scholarship because we had one. But I felt like my word was important to keep with Danny and his family, so we decided to bring him in.
To be frankly honest with you, I have no idea who Coach Saban is talking about that might have joined the team. There were rumors a few weeks back that embattled former LSU signee Jeremy Hill might join the Tide, so that's a possibility. Either way, Woodson is now in and practicing. He obviously isn't likely to play this Saturday, and will probably be headed for a redshirt. He practiced today in shorts and helmet and will do the same on Thursday as he works through his NCAA mandated acclimation period. Presumably he will go in shells on Friday and Monday, and then will be able to go in full pads on Monday. I doubt we'll see him dress on Saturday, but if we do, he'll be wearing #13.
The fact that Coach Saban mentioned the possibility of giving a scholarship to a walk-on was taken away when Woodson joined the team indicates that it is an almost certainty that Bama is at 85 scholarships heading into this season.
The other wide receiver that joined the team this week is Duron Carter. I think we'll probably see him get a few snaps this weekend, though Coach Saban indicated that the team will not start actively working him in to the game plan until next week. He played a full year at Ohio State, so him having missed practice is far less important than with an incoming freshman.
Kellen Williams was listed as the backup center on the official depth chart released on Monday, but Coach Saban said he has yet to be fully cleared yet. The staff will make a game-time decision on him on Saturday to determine whether a sprained ankle will keep him out of the mix.
Barrett Jones has had a wrap on two fingers of his left hand all week, but continues to tell reporters that he is fine. There's no reason not to believe him.
Otherwise, the injury situation looks good. Trent Richardson is no longer wearing the protective wrap on his hamstring that we saw all through camp. Marquis Maze isn't limping around like he was at time last week. Dee Hart is obviously still out, but everyone else is in pretty good shape heading in to week one.
Coach Saban announced to the media that former All-SEC lineman Justin Smiley has returned to school after retiring from the NFL and will work with the Tide as a student assistant coach. Smiley was known for playing with an exceptional mean streak, something that benefits most offensive lineman. This is obviously his first stint as a coach, so we don't know if he'll be able to teach that, but having someone who just left the NFL at practice every day should be a bonus for the Tide staff.
Bama will practice again on Thursday and Friday, but as is standard practice under Nick Saban, there will be no media viewing period either day. Considering the lack of information coming out of this week's practices, there won't be a whole lot of difference for those of us who cover the Tide.
If we hear something worth reporting, we'll let you know. As for now, it looks like Hart will definitely be out, and Darius Hanks will miss the game due to NCAA rules. Everyone else will be a "coach's decision."
Look for a printable depth chart to be up some time in the next few days. Other than that... the college football season kicks off on Thursday night with Mississippi State heading to Memphis and UNLV heading to Wisconsin. It's game week!