|DC Kirby Smart|
|OC Jim McElwain|
With fan day now in the books, some thoughts and musings on what (little) we know so far:
Even though I understand and support Saban's policy of not allowing assistants or freshmen to talk to the media, it's a real shame that we only get to hear Kirby Smart and Jim McElwain speak just a couple of times per year. Both are incredibly well spoken individuals that are going to be head coaches somewhere else very soon, so be sure to watch the videos to the right (or read the transcripts here) since it will be the last time you get anything from them until bowl season. As for their comments, a few items of note:
- McElwain spoke about the importance of the TE position in our offense and the different roles different players play from that position:
"That 'H' position is one that's got to both be able to play on the line and got to be able to move off the line and handle things in space. A guy (who was) kind of an unsung hero from last year, Preston Dial, I think has done an outstanding job for us and done a lot of dirty work, really took that step that Travis McCall did the year before. He's really accepted that role and done a good job.
"Brad Smelley's done a great job in the two years recreating his body a little bit and becoming a more physical player. We can use him out of the backfield as well as in the pass game."
Then there's the heavyweight, or as McElwain called them, "on-the-line, blocking tight ends."
It's good to hear praise for both Dial, who didn't factor much into the passing game last year but got a lot of snaps because of his run blocking, and Brad Smelley, who looked like he was on a solid track for playing time as a true freshman after some key receptions but who effectively disappeared last year when his blocking just wasn't up to snuff. Replacing Colin Peek is about the only question mark the offense faces, but it's a huge one considering his production and versatility. If Smelley really has developed into a better run blocker that will go a long way towards keeping the TE position heavily involved in the passing game. Also of note from the last two days, with Jeramie Griffin out Mike Marrow has been working with the RBs again after getting a look at H-Back during the spring.
He also had this to say about the role practicing against the Tide defense plays in minimizing turnovers:
We’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball both in the air and on the ground. I would say that the turnover part has more to do with what our defense does in a daily practice to try to create turnovers, and it forces us to maybe, because of their intensity and how they approach the turnover game, it actually helps us in practice. I think that has been a big thing for us offensively, because going against our guys and Coach Saban’s and Kirby (Smart’s) defense on a daily basis actually helps our guys understand ball security a little bit."
Makes you wonder how much slower opposing defenses seem after practicing against ours... #bammerarrogance
- As for Smart, his comments on how youth and inexperience at key positions will affect the defense were pretty enlightening (emphasis mine):
"We certainly have to take that into consideration. Looking at last year’s implementation we could do things a lot faster because we had more experience, but we are not going to not challenge these guys. We have to challenge them mentally and let them understand it and teach them, and that is always the approach we have taken. I’ve been with Coach (Saban) now going on six years and we always take the approach of throw it up there and see what sticks and if they don’t get it, we’re going to throw it up there again and see what sticks. We did it this spring. Fortunately we had two of these young guys in the spring to work with and they’re a little further along than the other freshmen. We can’t change what we do because of the youth, but we can certainly take that into consideration when we get ready to game plan."
Note that Alabama hasn't been afraid of playing young guys right away if they are up to the challenge: Kareem Jackson was starting at CB as a true freshman after only a few games, Dont'a Hightower was starting at Will from game one his true freshman year, and Mark Barron working in the Dime package as a true freshman and starting as a true sophomore. I keep going back to former DC Kevin Steele's comments about really having only three years to work with kids when you are recruiting the kind of elite talent that we are, so you better get them ready to play and ready to get out there as quickly as possible, and I think this quote illustrates that that attitude is still very prevalent in the way players are being developed. By constantly throwing things at the players to see what 'sticks' but also taking what doesn't into consideration while game planning allows the staff to continually teach and expand the schemes as the season wears on without actually trying to cram square pegs into round holes. It also helps that guys like Mark Barron and Dont'a Hightower have taken on the kind of leadership roles that they themselves depended on when they were out there and maybe in a little over their heads:
"Mark Barron is an exciting kid, and he is almost like a changed man this year. It is funny because I can remember the first couple of times we were out there with Mark Barron as a freshman we knew he was going to be a talented player. It was pretty obvious early on that he was going to be a talented player, but he did not understand the intricacies of the defense. He was learning and there were days out there that he was frustrated, and the older guys would get on him about getting into the playbook and wanting him to do well. Now two years later, he’s that guy. He knows pretty much all the defense, and he’s coaching the other guys and it is fun to see him grow up and become the player that he is. He is such a mature kid. He’s not a silly guy. He’s all about business, and he does a good job of leading the other guys. He makes me feel real comfortable about being back there."
- As for the secondary, we're still doing the "two steps forward one step back" routine. Per Saban, Kendall Kelly is out indefinitely with heat related issues. Thankfully he hasn't had to be hospitalized, but it is apparently serious enough that the staff wants to keep him out of practice longer (he hasn't practiced since experiencing "dizziness" Thursday night). Even though it means we're once again short handed at safety, its much better to be safe than sorry in this situation. On a less worrisome note, Blake Sims, who worked with the safeties his first day, moved to offense and took reps with the QBs yesterday and today. Interestingly he did not wear a black no contact jersey like the rest of the QBs. As versatile as Sims is, its not surprising to see him moving around to see where the best fit for his skills will be, though I'd happily wager he'll still wind up at DB.
Kirkpatrick started opposite B.J. Scott on A-Day and that's not likely to change any time soon, but the battle for third corner is a little more up in the air. According to Estes' tweets, true freshman DeMarcus Milliner was working as the third corner in drills today instead of LSU transfer Phelon Jones or JUCO signee DeQuan Menzie. That's something to keep an eye on over the next few practices as both of them were expected to contribute heavily. And just some pure speculation on my part, I wouldn't be shocked to see Milliner being tried at safety, either. With Menzie and Jones backing up Scott and Kirkpatrick, it could be a way to get a playmaker like Milliner time at a position of need since he played safety all through high school and is just now transitioning to corner. Word is that he is ahead of fellow true freshman John Fulton mentally, but Fulton is ahead of Milliner physically since Fulton is a true corner. With Kendall Kelly out and Rod Woodson gone, Milliner could be an attractive option behind Barron and Robert Lester, while if we really need a true freshman to step up at corner behind the other four, Fulton seems a little more prepared from a raw talent stand point. Just a thought.
It happened while tackling Heisman winner Mark Ingram during the A-Day Game.
The feeling was familiar. Immediately, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick knew he'd torn the labrum in his right shoulder."Things happen," Kirkpatrick said. "I looked at is as it's football, and I know things are going to happen. As long as I can get healthy and do the proper treatment, I'm not going to worry about it too much."
On the bright side, Estes did tweet this:
Cade Foster boots a kickoff into the end zone and draws big cheers from fans in attendanceYou know we're crazy about our football here when kickoffs are getting cheered.
"Not to talk too much about last year, but Roy Upchurch gave us a huge lift at times," he said of the departed running back. "We also need to develop that position. Who's going to be that third down guy? The third and fourth backs?"Though Goode and Lacy are the odds on guys, reports about Corey Grant's quickness may make him an attractive role player as well.