X Factor: Harrison Jones. Physically, the sophomore fits the bill. Whether he can give the offense a couple of receptions per game remains to be seen. Which means: Brent Calloway's quest to find a permanent home recently made a stop at H-back, where his athleticism could be put to good use in the passing game. Now we'll find out if he can block.
Who to watch on A-Day: Of particular interest will be how Brian Vogler's reps are split between tight end and H. At 6-foot-7, the sophomore's frame suggests he might be a better fit at tight end but he's continued to work at both spots. Don't sleep on: Alabama has some solid options at the position, but we've yet to see or hear anything that would lead us to think Incoming freshman Kurt Freitag won't have a chance to compete in 2012.
Saban, citing the recruiting advantages and forecasted good weather, used the opening statement of his post-practice press conference Thursday to encourage yet another strong turnout. Those who attend will get to see an exhibition game with a simple format, but one that is "probably the closest thing to a game that we have until the opening game," Saban said. "This is their first opportunity to create an identity as a team individually for each player," Saban said. "Also as a team in terms of the kind of team chemistry, character, discipline, ability to execute, maturity, all the things that we always talk about."
Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones' transition from left tackle to center has gone well, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Thursday after practice. "Barrett, I think, started out with things not being maybe quite as comfortable for him, even though he played the position some last year," Saban said. "But I really do think he got more and more comfortable with every practice and every rep. "I'm very, very comfortable with where he is right now at that position in terms of knowledge and experience. Snapping the ball has not been a problem. We're pleased with the progress that he's made."
Saban encouraged everyone who supports the Alabama football team to come to the scrimmage on Saturday. He feels that it is great for recruiting and the team to have the support of the community. "It is going to be a beautiful day on Saturday," Saban said. "This team has worked very hard and it would be a lot of positive self-gratification to have a supportive group there for the game on Saturday. It is great for recruiting, and it is certainly great for our team."
Another near-capacity crowd is expected to pile into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday for the University of Alabama’s A-Day game, which will be Nick Saban’s sixth spring game since taking over as head coach for the Crimson Tide. In his five previous seasons, Saban has compiled 55 victories and won two national championships, and he knows that his team’s success each year hinges on spring practice and the annual spring game. "A lot of the success that we have had here is attributed to that great tradition, and every one of those individuals contributed to that," Saban said."We want this to be a great weekend for them, as well. I'm really looking forward to the game."
When Alabama entered the spring, Saban was in a half-glass-full kind of mood. Even the offensive line -- arguably the Tide’s greatest strength heading into the fall -- had a harsh dose of reality to temper any compliments. After the first scrimmage of the spring, he harped on the need for more depth to back up the first line that features four returning starters and all five with significant playing experience. "When I say we need more guys to learn what it takes to play winning football, that would be one of the positions that I’m talking about," Saban said two weeks ago of the line. Fast-forward to Thursday and the sixth-year head coach couldn’t help himself again. "I think the offensive line really had a good spring and played very well," Saban said. "We've got a lot of experience. We've got a lot of games started by those guys, a lot of competitive character in that group, a lot of physical. We don't have a lot of depth but I think that that's going to be the real focus as we continue to try to create depth at that position."
"I don't think there's any question A-Day favors the team with the first offense and the second defense, because we were with the second defense, and those guys play a lot in the fall," McElroy said. "The third corner, your fourth corner, your third safety, those are all guys who really know what they're doing. The same goes for your whole second defensive line. So it's an experience thing."
Saban highlights the offensive line as a position group that thrived this spring. "We don't have a lot of depth, but that's going to be a real focus." Also says QB AJ McCarron had a good spring and several receivers made progress.
Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban said Sunseri, converted from a linebacker, improved dramatically last season. "Vinnie wore lots of hats last year. He lined up and played special teams. He was an all-type role in the secondary," Saban said. "For a guy who hadn’t been a defensive back, he did a marvelous job to be able to evolve and do those things. "This year he’s playing more safety and just not playing those roles. He played at star, money and safety – and that’s a lot on anybody’s plate – but he’s making good progress and continuing to improve."
Vinnie Sunseri doesn’t wear the same colors as his dad anymore, but that doesn’t change their relationship. Well, not too much. Sal Sunseri is now the defensive coordinator at Tennessee after coaching Tide linebackers for three seasons. They still talk all the time, but the younger Sunseri misses seeing his father on the practice field in Tuscaloosa. When they talk, football comes up. "He asks how practice goes," said Vinnie Sunseri, a safety and rising sophomore with the Tide. "I ask how practice goes. I’m still his son and he’s still my dad. I just try to talk to him like that." So there’s no trash talking? "No, we joke around," Vinnie Sunseri said. "I’ll say he doesn’t look good in that orange, and he’ll say I don’t look good in that crimson, just little jokes like that."
This week, al.com returns with an all new episode of the Alabama Football Podcast. Each week, al.com sports producer Matt Scalici will bring you conversations with journalists, experts and fans about Alabama football. This week, Matt is joined by Tuscaloosa producer Ben Flanagan as the two discuss Alabama's first spring scrimmage and read some of your comments from last week's show. Later in the show, Matt is joined by Cliff Shexnayder (a.k.a. Kleph) from RollBamaRoll to discuss the changing profile of Alabama's roster.
With fewer homes receiving the live telecast and nice weather forecasted, crowds could near the record 92,310 who saw last season’s scrimmage. Those who watch on television can expect a more relaxed broadcast compared to a regular season game. "You’re talking even more than usual about players than you are about the game itself," said Stewart, also the radio voice of the Alabama men’s basketball team. "The outcome is something very few people outside of the players themselves will remember for a couple weeks after they get the winners’ meal and bragging rights."
Five University of Alabama players will be among the 26 would-be draftees attending the NFL draft later this month. National champion Alabama will send safety Mark Barron, running back Trent Richardson, linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to New York for the event.
"I always thought, coaching in the NFL for eight years and being used to playing exhibition games, if we were going to play a game that would get you more ready for the season, maybe you'd play an exhibition game before the season started if somebody wanted to talk about that. I've never mentioned that. I don't think it's necessary. I think we have a good game the way it is." Why change? "There's a lot of competitive games out there," Saban said. "The league is great. The fact that we play in a competitive venue every year is great for our fans, somewhere outside of our league."
"I am so appreciative of Coach Saban coming over here and speaking to our ladies and sharing his experience and his philosophy with us," Patterson said. "I know our ladies love hearing from him and they certainly take his message of what it takes to be successful at the highest level to heart."
The second ranked Alabama softball team (37-2 overall, 14-2 SEC) looks to stay atop the Southeastern Conference standings as it welcomes South Carolina (23-20 overall, 3-13 SEC) to Rhoads Stadium for a three game series. First pitch for Friday, April 13 is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s game will start at 4:30 p.m., and Sunday’s finale will start at 1:30 p.m. All three games will be live on WVUA-TV.
Hightower is "high-floor" player. With his size, athleticism, and Saban training, he is all but guaranteed to be a productive starter who can contribute right away. Sometimes, high-floor players are perceived as "low ceiling" players with limited upside, but that is not a fair assessment of Hightower. It's better to think of him as a "low glory" player: He will play glamour-less positions like inside linebacker in a 3-4 or the strong side in a 4-3, recording 100 tackles and a handful of sacks while teammates make the highlight reels. Hightower's draft stock is diminished by the low priority many teams give his type of player. Defenders 90 percent as good as Hightower will still be on the board on the third day of the draft, but the fact remains that Hightower is the best, and most NFL ready, big inside linebacker in the draft. Some team is going to be very pleased when he falls to them. Possibly even the Steelers.
Petrino contacted a football staff member to find out stats on the team's April 6 scrimmage. He followed up by asking "Andy" if messages could be pulled off of his phone. "So Andy can they get content off my text," Petrino asked.