The University of Alabama football team had its seventh practice of the 2012 spring session on Wednesday. The full pads practice was held outside in the bright sunshine of a beautiful spring day in Tuscaloosa.
Here's what you need to know:
The same three guys who have been in black are still in black. Eddie Lacy (toe), Arie Kouandjio (knee), and Blake Sims (hip) were held out of practice. DeAndrew White (hamstring) was cleared for contact, but is still very limited with an injury that has been bothering him all off season. It likely won't heal completely until over the summer.
Duron Carter was once again absent, and his name no longer appears on the official roster on rolltide.com. Honestly, it was a bit odd that he was on the roster when fellow suspended players Michael Bowman and Ronald Carswell were not. Speaking of Bowman, the fact that Brandon Lewis has switched to the #88 does not bode well for Bowman's return. With Carter, though, nothing has changed. Those close to him still think he'll be back. I won't believe that he is going to play until I see him on the field this fall, but there is apparently still some optimism.
If Coach Saban was issuing a challenge to the leadership about intensity by calling Monday's practice poor, he got the desired result. Today's practice was much tighter, and much more crisp. Things aren't completely where they need to be, but there was definite improvement from Monday. It's still unclear exactly who the leaders of this team will be, but there is apparently leadership coming from somewhere. That was something that was severely lacking on the 2010 team, and was part of the reason for that team losing three games. My guess is that guys like Barrett Jones, A.J. McCarron, Damion Square, and Robert Lester are the most likely candidates.
To this point there has been very little of the type of positional experimentation that is usually seen during spring practice. I think that is likely a direct result of the fact that Bama is deep pretty much everywhere. The staff would like to have a few more guys along the offensive line, but I think you could probably say that about every coaching staff in America. The fact that we are not seeing a lot of guys moving around is good, though, as that means that players are actually getting the basic reps needed at the position that they are most likely to play in the fall. With spring practice being mostly about fundamentals, they should help ease the burden of the first dozen or so practices in fall camp.
With all of that work being done on fundamentals, there really isn't much to report. The incoming players are continuing to do well, with Dillon Lee and Deion Belue the two who are getting the most attention from the staff. There hasn't been a lot of movement in the order of guys in the organizational groupings, though that isn't a surprise this early in the spring. I expect we'll see some of that after Saturday's scrimmage.
We left off on the player rankings at #50 in the last report, so he is the next group:
49. Malcolm Faciane. After a redshirt year, Faciane is running third team at the traditional tight end spot. At 6’5 and 259 lbs. he looks to be developing nicely as the type of big bodied pseudo-lineman that Nick Saban likes to have at that tight end spot. He’s still around 15 lbs. lighter than Michael Williams and Brandon Lewis (the two guys in front of him), but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in technique. He still has to develop as a pass receiver, though he is already ahead of Lewis there. Another year in the conditioning program will do him wonders, and with both guys in front of him being seniors, he could have a big role in 2013.
48. Jonathan Atchison. If not for a myriad of health problems, he would probably be higher on this list. Even with the time he has missed due to injury he is still running with the second unit at the sam linebacker. That’s the spot that comes off of the field in the nickel defense, so they aren’t a lot of snaps to be had. As a junior, his time is starting to run out. But if this Alabama linebacking corps gets the type of specialized snaps that it looks like it might, he could see time in short yardage situations.
47. Jarrick Williams. Like Nick Perry, it looked like Jarrick was primed to be a major contributor at safety. And like Perry, the influx of talent at that position has pushed him further down the line than he would like to be. He’s probably the fourth best safety on the team right now, but has been a stalwart on Bama’s kick coverage unit for the past two seasons. He’ll get a lot of playing time in 2012 in that same role.
46. Chad Lindsay. One of several interior linemen that have moved between the two guard spots and center, Lindsay is currently running second unit behind Anthony Steen at right guard. Steen still has two years to play, and offensive linemen don’t rotate much. The fact that he’s worked at all three interior spots means he’ll be in the mix to replace Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones next spring. He’s probably behind the other two guys he’ll be competing against (Ryan Kelly and Isaac Luatua), but the separation isn’t that great.
45. Carson Tinker. In terms of overall talent, Tinker is probably much closer to the bottom of this list. In terms of how well he performs his role and what type of leadership he provides, he probably belongs much higher on the list. So even things out, and he becomes the first of the non-scholarship guys to appear on the list. His story of personal loss in last April’s tornado is well known at this point, and his determination to overcome that has not been lost on his teammates. The long-snapper position has the lowest reward of any position on the field. The only time you get noticed is if you make a mistake. And, simply put, Carson hasn’t made one yet. In two years he has not created a turnover with a bad snap, a trick his predecessor Brian Selman was able to pull for four years. That’s pretty much what you ask of your long-snapper. The bottom line is that your kicker typically leads your team in points, and the kicker doesn’t score a single one of those without a quality snap and hold, and Bama’s holder (A.J. McCarron) will obviously be considerably higher on the list. Here’s to another year of going un-noticed.
44. Brian Vogler. At 6’7 and 258 lbs. he would appear to be a natural fit at the traditional tight end spot. At the moment, though, his pass catching skills are well ahead of his blocking skills. With that being the case, and the fact that Bama loves to utilize it’s H-Back in passing situations, he’s actually getting most of his reps at that hybrid tight end and fullback spot. He’s currently getting his reps with the second unit, behind Harrison Jones. Vogler is a big target who spent his redshirt freshman season behind one of Bama’s most reliable receiving targets Brad Smelley. He creates a match-up nightmare for smaller linebackers and safeties, and has the size to possibly move back to the traditional tight end spot in 2013. The fact that he’s getting a look at the H-Back this season is an indication that the staff thinks he can play a role in the passing game this year.
43. Isaac Luatua. Bama’s first Samoan player spent his redshirt season moving among the three interior line spots. He’s currently settled in at left guard behind Chance Warmack. He’s probably the second best interior guy among the three guys on the second unit, and should have the first opportunity to replace Warmack in 2013. How well he develops this year could be big if Bama loses a guard at any point during the season. If he’s ready to take over, then Barrett Jones can stay at center. If not, then Jones would have to slide to that spot, creating a vacancy at a position that requires much greater rhythm between the lineman and the quarterback.
42. Brandon Ivory. It seems a little odd to have a guy who could potentially be starting at nose guard this far down the list, but that should tell you how deep Bama’s roster is in talent. In his two seasons on campus he has done a nice job of reshaping his body into a much better 6’4 and 315 pounds. At the moment, though, he hasn’t developed the necessary technique to allow the staff to leave Jesse Williams at end. Coach Saban recently singled him out as a guy who was having a good spring, and that could be quite large for the Tide. Williams is one of the Tide’s most explosive players, and can help the team more at end. If Ivory can make the leap forward to take over the nose guard spot, then Williams goes back to end, and the Tide’s depth on the defensive line gets even more ridiculous. If not, then he will battle early enrollee Alphonse Taylor for backup duties.
41. Jabriel Washington. He played in one game last season, but the current official roster lists him as a redshirt freshman. I’m not exactly sure how that works out correctly, but unless I hear otherwise, I’ll go with the official roster. Unlike a lot of guys who come in as “athletes” and choose to go against the staff’s wishes as to where they start their career, Washington made a quick trip to the defensive backfield, and that developmental year – spent mostly with Nick Saban – made a big difference. He’s still the fifth best corner on the team, but all four guys ahead of him are juniors. Bama hasn’t brought in a lot of corners in the last two recruiting classes, so projecting a few years down the road he could be developing into a starter. He’s working behind Dee Milliner at the field corner spot, which tells you that Nick Saban thinks pretty highly of him. He could get a look at the kickoff coverage squad, but otherwise he isn’t likely to see meaningful snaps in 2012.
40. Arie Kouandjio. This is a case of an injury determining a guy’s spot. If he’s healthy, he is on the second unit offensive line. In fact, if healthy, he could be filling a role similar to John Michael Boswell’s over the past two seasons, where he might be the number two guy at three or four positions. As it is, he’s recovering from major knee surgery and he is losing his reps at all of those spots. Once he’s recovered from the injury and back on the field, I expect he’ll move up the list pretty quickly, and I could easily see him with a starting role on the 2013 offensive line.
Bama will practice again on Friday as the Tide prepares for Saturday's first scrimmage of the spring. We'll have our normal report.