TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 17: Quarterback A. J. McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs for a first down during the Alabama spring game at Bryant Denny Stadium on April 17, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
Thanks to a strict, Nick Saban-imposed prohibition on the release of any meaningful information about the scrimmage this afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium, we know little more in the aftermath of the first scrimmage of fall camp than we knew this morning. Certainly the staff will review the film accordingly and make personnel decisions moving forward, but for the time being those decisions will be kept privately within the athletic department and will not be disseminated further. For obvious reasons, that makes speculation about ongoing developments difficult, but for now we'll piece together things as best as we can.
As of this writing, the only scrimmage statistics that were released are those that follow:
Marquis Maze: 5 catches, 123 yards, 3 touchdowns
Courtney Upshaw: 5 tackles, 1 sack
C.J. Mosley: 6 tackles (led team)
Mark Barron: 5 tackles
For the record this is the first time during his five seasons at UA that Nick Saban has done something to this effect. Full scrimmage statistics are never released, but the substantial majority of them typically are and this move is unprecedented. I think it's clear that this relates directly to the ongoing quarterback competition between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims, and even Saban himself said in his post-practice press conference that this would not be a race decided or influenced by raw statistics and public perception. My intuition tells that me that one quarterback performed significantly better than the other today on a statistical basis and that Saban does not want that to be blown out of proportion publicly, but admittedly that is all speculation on my part and it could be completely wrong, so take from it what you will and leave the rest.
Notwithstanding the effective media embargo, we do know that there were no serious injuries today, and if nothing else that makes today a success in the grand scheme of things. DeMarcus Milliner missed some time with a laceration to his chin, but that's not a serious injury by any stretch of the imagination and outside of Milliner no other injuries were mentioned by Nick Saban in his post-scrimmage press conference.
Other previously injured players returned to the field today and participated with little limitation. William Vlachos was back at center today after a mid-week illness, and two days removed from surgery Dont'a Hightower participated almost fully in the scrimmage today, only coming off of the field during goal line work. On the flip side, though, Brian Vogler and Alex Watkins were held out as they both continue to recover from offseason surgery, and that news is of particular concern regarding Watkins. True freshman offensive lineman Ryan Kelly was absent once again as he continues to recover from a concussion.
On the downside, though, the offensive line looks to be something of a concern. Saban reiterated several times in his post-scrimmage press conference that we didn't run the ball as well as he thought we should have, and while he did give some praise for the defensive line for their play against the run, it seemed like he was more disappointed by the offensive line than he was impressed by the defensive line. In other words, it seemed as if he was indirectly saying that it wasn't so much that the defensive line stopped the run as much as it was that the offensive line never could establish it properly in the first place.
Whether this is a mere early camp issue that will resolve itself in time with greater unit cohesion or if this is a continuation of the interior offensive line struggles that plagued this group a year ago remains to be seen. Again, though, the bellwether here will be Barrett Jones. If he stays outside at left tackle, given the quick progress of Cyrus Kouandjio, that will be a clearly positive indicator about the development of the guards, but if we hear news of Barrett Jones back at right guard in the days ahead then you can say with certainty that the development of the guards has stalled again.
In other quick hitters, DeAndrew White continued to receive praise from Saban in his post-practice press conference. Marquis Maze looks to be solidifying himself as the starting punt returner, though Saban did mention that true freshman Christion Jones had impressed in that role also. Saban mentioned that 'Bama had six or seven offensive linemen who looked like starters, though obviously only five would play. Who are the others? My guess would be Arie Kouandjio and Alfred McCullough, with Cyrus Kouandjio getting there quickly.
Tomorrow will be the first off day of fall camp for the Crimson Tide, and Alabama will return to the practice fields Monday morning for the continuation of two-a-days.