January 9th may seem like just yesterday, but a new season has officially dawned. The winter strength and conditioning program began several weeks ago, surely to the chagrin of those forced to endure it, and spring practice began in earnest this afternoon in Tuscaloosa, as Alabama went through the first of the fifteen spring practice sessions that will ultimately conclude with the A-Day game on April 14th.
Today featured a relatively light workout in helmets and shorts on a relatively mild afternoon, and as would be expected nothing overly out of the ordinary occurred. The session was injury free, fortunately, but aside from that today was largely more of a welcome-back-walkthrough than anything else. With spring break slated for next week, the opening session was likely scheduled for today largely to draw the attention of the players before they depart for the break.
The biggest development of the afternoon, even if largely expected, was the appearance of Barrett Jones at the center position. The move has long been expected, and was largely confirmed this past recruiting season when several offensive line recruits publicly mentioned it, but now it does indeed seem certain that the staff prefers to have the Outland Trophy winner make the transition to center in 2012. Even so, Jones will undoubtedly be the back-up at left tackle, and if Cyrus Kouandjio is out of the lineup Jones will move back outside and likely either Kellen Williams or Chad Lindsay will take snaps at the center position.
Also as expected, Brent Calloway appeared on the defensive side of the ball, taking snaps at the Sam linebacker position. Whether or not that is his long-term destination remains to be seen, but again given the depth at the interior linebacker spots and the necessity of him adding significant weight before he would be big enough to play inside, Sam is really his only feasible opportunity for seeing meaningful playing time in the short-term. Even so, it will be interesting to see exactly what style of play he brings to the defense, and whether or not he can become a viable alternative to Jonathon Atchison.
For those looking to keep track of the mid-year enrollments as spring practice progresses, their jersey numbers are as follows: T.J. Yeldon (4), Chris Black (5), Ryan Anderson (7), Amari Cooper (9), Travell Dixon (9), Deion Belue (13), Dillon Lee (25), and Alphonse Taylor (50). Note that Cooper and Dixon are both wearing #9, but given that one plays wide receiver and the other plays corner, that likely will not be a conflict this fall unless both draw special teams duty.
In other quick hitters, today marked the on-field return of Lance Thompson from his tenure in Knoxville. Phillip Sims was on-hand and participating in the activities, and there continues to be no word of a transfer. Duron Carter was not in attendance, even though he remains listed on the official roster. Dee Hart and Cyrus Kouandjio both wore braces on their surgically repaired knees, but otherwise participated fully. T.J. Yeldon certainly looks the part of an SEC tailback. Alphonse Taylor is as big as advertised. Blake Sims remained at tailback. Barrett Jones will be taking a mission trip next week to Nicaragua, but is expected back in Tuscaloosa next weekend.
Spring practice will resume in Tuscaloosa on March 19th, following the conclusion of UA Spring Break.