Spring Practice: Ninth And Tenth Day News And Notes

News, notes, and observations from Friday's practice and today's scrimmage:

  • As you may have noticed, I did not have a practice update for yesterday, but I figured I would group it in here. In all honesty, there wasn't really a whole lot going on. The Tuscaloosa area had a ton of rain yesterday, and as a result practice had to be moved inside to the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility. It was mainly a warm-up for the scrimmage today and was a generally light practice done in shorts. Now, moving onto the scrimmage...
  • John Parker Wilson had a decent, if not spectacular, day, going 17-33 for 216 yards. Nick Fanuzzi, too, looked better, but the struggles of Greg McElroy continued. I know that you never read too much into scrimmage statistics, but 7-19 for 48 yards is never good, regardless of how you look at it. The harsh truth is this: Through two scrimmages, McElroy has thrown 43 passes -- completing only 32.5% of them -- and combined has yet to throw for over 100 yards. About the only good thing you can say about his improvement is that at least he didn't throw four interceptions today. Putting it all together, even though Wilson isn't setting the world on fire at the moment, there isn't even any conceivable possibility at the moment that either McElroy or Fanuzzi is going to beat him out for the starting job as we head to Atlanta.
  • Speaking of how scrimmage statistics do not tell the entire story... Roy Upchurch had a great day today with 11 carries for 80 yards, a long touchdown run, and then another good touchdown run. And then in the press conference, Saban said Upchurch didn't work with the ones last week, and said that if he didn't become more dependable he wouldn't be working with them in the future. How does that one grab you? Upchurch has all of the talent needed -- as he showed today -- but he has never put it all together. Hopefully he can build on the success he had today. And not piss off the Nicktator.
  • As I have long hoped, we are apparently using Jeramie Griffin in a Jacob Hester-type role. It's pretty obvious that we aren't going to make any grand use of a fullback, and since you cannot waste that much talent, we are using him as a tailback in singleback formations. Griffin is a very athletic tailback / fullback combo -- not like a Le'Ron McClain type traditional I-formation lead blocker -- and we are using the size to get production in short yardage situations. Griffin had a two-yard touchdown run in today's scrimmage, and according to several first-hand accounts, Griffin absolutely steamrolled a defender to get into the end zone. Just think, a legitimate in-between the tackles runner who can get the job done in short-yardage situations. Exciting, eh?
  • The receivers looked a lot better today, as Darius Hanks, Earl Alexander, and Mike McCoy all had good days. At the very least it was a big improvement over last week, and if anything it seemed like a complete 180. Even without Nikita Stover participating with a hamstring injury, things still looked pretty good. Replacing three receivers isn't easy, but we've got a lot of talent at the position, and several guys returning who have been in the program a year or more. And we also have the big influx of talent from the recruiting class. If we have a quarterback who can consistently get these guys the ball, they should do quite well.
  • Speaking of Hanks, he seems to be doing pretty well, as most expected him to. After getting rave reviews all last year on the scout team, he hasn't disappointed a bit, and honestly he looks to hold a starting job once we get out of Spring. Of course, him taking almost a 40-yard quick slant to the house today didn't hurt his cause in that regard. In so many ways, he reminds me of a young D.J. Hall. He's got great hands, good speed, and runs good routes. Unfortunately, as Coach Saban pointed out, he also needs to get bigger and become more physical. Sounds like D.J. Hall to me.
  • Nick Walker also had a very nice day, leading the team in catches with eight catches for 57 yards. One of the better stories since Saban arrived has been the emergence of Walker as a legitimate receiving threat. He dropped 40 pounds, and turned in a nice year in 2007. And from all I can tell, he seems destined to improve on that for the 2008 season. If he can just consistently protect the football -- a bit if, perhaps -- he could very well be one of the conference's best tight ends, and the most productive tight end we've had in a long time.
  • Rolando McClain had his typical big day. In the stat column he showed up with five tackles, a pass broken up, two sacks, and a quarterback hurry. All in all, pretty much a typical day at the office for Mr. McClain. The truth of the matter is that given his natural ability and work ethic, it seems only injury can keep McClain from being the next great Alabama linebacker.
  • Baron Huber is still at inside linebacker, running with the second and third teams. Though Saban has not committed to leaving him there, today marked his third day participating with the defense, and it definitely seems like Huber may be there to stay. And he hasn't looked half bad either, he racked up a sack today. At the very least, if he does stay at linebacker, we will probably get more production out of him there than at fullback. Even a great fullback would really only give us nominal production as little as we would use him.
  • Corey Reamer has been moved to inside linebacker, and is currently backing up Jimmy Johns. And he, too, seemingly had a pretty good scrimmage today. All in all, he's just done really well this Spring, and he's been one of the positive surprises. If you made a list of the risers and the fallers this Spring, Reamer would be at the top of the list for the risers.
  • Good news today on the injury front... there were no serious injuries. Of all of the news that you can get coming out of a scrimmage, little can be better than escaping serious injury. Fortunately, Saban's practice of "thud" drills generally keeps injuries down in non-scrimmage situations, but once you let kids go, anything can happen. Just one more to go...
  • One of the interesting things I've noticed is who has been leading us through warm-ups every day. We have three players doing it, two of which are always Rashad Johnson and Antoine Caldwell, and the third player is done on a rotating basis. It was John Parker Wilson one day, Travis McCall today, etc. I'm sure it doesn't mean much of anything -- well, aside from the obvious that we're looking for another leader to step up -- but it's an interesting aside.
  • Leigh Tiffin had a nice kick today, as he nailed a 51-yard field goal. He's a solid kicker, and he pretty much has that job locked up. The interesting thing was that Fitzgerald looked much better today, averaging over 45 yards per punt. I just hope he can do that in the Fall.
  • All in all, things looked much improved today. Saban was not entirely pleased -- nor will he ever be -- but even he pointed out that things looked a good bit better today than a week ago. We protected the ball better, ran it better, and all in all both sides of the ball made plays, always a good sign. It's a process... slowly but surely.
  • Finally, we've got some potentially news developing regarding Tremayne Coger. I posted about him in the diaries, and will re-state that here. He was a highly-touted kid coming out of high school, but has yet to play, and he needed a good Spring. Unfortunately, he tweaked an ankle, and has been out. Today he was not at the scrimmage, and his name was not on the official roster that was handed out to family members and other invited guests. You do the math on that one. We'll see what happens, but at the very least it is a legitimate possibility that Coger has decided to give it up. Coach Saban offered no clarification in his press conference, but I'm sure we'll find out something soon. On a more general note, you hate to see anyone go, but we all knew attrition was coming. We'll find out for sure on Coger in the next couple of days.
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