TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 3: Runningback Jalston Fowler #45 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs for a 49 yard touchdown during the fourth quarter in the game with the Kent State Golden Flashes on September 3, 2011 at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama defeated Kent State 48-7. (Photo by Greg McWilliams/Getty Images)
Alabama took to Bryant-Denny Stadium yesterday afternoon for the second scrimmage of spring practice, and after a pass-happy scrimmage a week ago, the running game was more prominently featured in round two. Rising junior Jalston Fowler led the way on the ground, picking up 151 yards and three touchdowns off of 22 carries, though 68 of those yards came on one play in situational work.
Neither Dee Hart or true freshman T.J. Yeldon had any reported statistics for the scrimmage, which typically indicates that the player(s) in question either did not see many touches or did not do anything overly impressive with the opportunities that he did receive. As such, even if based solely on the number of carries received, at this point Fowler has to be considered the frontrunner to be second in the tailback rotation behind Eddie Lacy. Additionally, Saban has praised Fowler in his recent press conferences, which likely on further points to his standing in the rotation. Fowler will never be the overly explosive threat an outside runner, but he is a strong receiver out of the backfield and is likely the best pass blocker of any tailback on campus. Combined with his abilities as an interior runner, he figures to have a prominent role this fall.
In the passing game, A.J. McCarron had a somewhat more pedestrian day in the second scrimmage of the spring, going just 14-29 for 160 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. The four touchdowns were all relatively short tosses (16 yards and 11 yards, and two more in goal line situations), and despite the scoring plays the passing game as a whole with McCarron didn't appear to stand out in any significant way, completing only 48.2% of his passes while averaging only 5.5 yards per attempt. It's nothing to be particularly concerned about, mind you, but even so not as strong of a day for the passing game as was the case in the first scrimmage.
Phillip Sims was once again withheld from any meaningful throwing in the scrimmage due to a sore right shoulder, and while there has been no official change in his medical diagnosis (bursitis), the fact remains that this spring has largely been a bit of a bust for him due to the injury. In all likelihood he will be shelved for the rest of the spring, and for better or for worse at this point we can only stand idly by and hope he does not transfer later this summer.
Phillip Ely has been getting the second-team reps in Sims' place, though the lack of any reported statistics for him likely indicates he hasn't done anything overly special in either scrimmage. No disrespect intended to Ely, but I think it goes without saying that if Sims transfers then A.J. McCarron absolutely must stay healthy.
DeAndrew White bounced back from his hamstring strain to lead the receivers on the day, catching five passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Christion Jones and Kevin Norwood combined for nine catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns, and together with White and Kenny Bell these four players are the mainstays of the wide receiver rotation at this point. Chris Black also added two catches today, however, and freshmen Amari Cooper, Marvin Shinn, and Danny Woodson, Jr. could legitimately factor into the rotation by the time fall camp concludes this August. Until someone in the above group shows they can consistently produce on the field this fall, this will largely remain an open competition.
Alphonse Taylor and Brent Calloway have both changed positions in the past week, with Taylor moving from nose tackle to offensive guard and Calloway moving from Sam linebacker to H-back. Taylor is the bigger surprise here, as he looked solid manning the nose and given the apparent lack of depth at the position. Calloway likely became more replaceable due to the strong performance this spring at the Sam position by Adrian Hubbard, and admittedly 'Bama could use another body at the H-back position. Even so, though, Calloway would probably still need to bulk up before he can be considered a legitimate possibility on the offensive side of the ball, and frankly what does anyone know about him as a receiver? Only time will tell. Either way, experiments with position changes are typically a spring fixture under Saban, and it would be of no great surprise if these players moved back to the original positions in the days ahead.
With respect to special teams, Cody Mandell had one of his best scrimmages to date at punter, averaging 42.0 yards per boot on twelve punts. Slowly but surely, Mandell is gaining consistency and becoming an asset on special teams. Placekicking, though, remains a glaring weakness. Cade Foster converted only three of six field goal tries, hitting a long kick to go along with two glorified extra points while missing from 46, 35, and 32. While a sudden revelation by Foster would be certainly welcomed, the harsh truth remains that 'Bama does not currently have any viable kicking game from any real distance, and likely will not have one this fall unless incoming freshman Adam Griffith can contribute immediately.
As expected, injuries are slowly starting to pile up as the contact sessions continue. Jesse Williams suffered an ankle sprain in yesterday's scrimmage, as did Vinny Sunseri, and senior safety Robert Lester sprained a knee. None of those injuries are thought to be serious, however, and fortunately there has been a noticeable absent of long-term injuries this spring. Just hope that holds up for the next week.
In other quick hitters, Christion Jones and DeMarcus Milliner look to be the favorites at kick returner, though Saban mentioned true freshman Amari Cooper as a possibility. At punt returner, the aforementioned Jones will likely nab that spot come September, though Dee Hart and Deion Belue have also gotten reps. Tana Patrick continues to have a solid spring. No word yet on whether or not Chad Lindsay participated yesterday, after having sat out the first scrimmage with an apparent concussion. Blake Sims remains out with a hip injury and is expected to miss the remainder of spring practice. Despite the injury late in the scrimmage, Vinny Sunseri had another impressive showing at safety yesterdayday, as did Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix.
Alabama will return to the practice fields on Tuesday for the thirteenth practice session of the spring. The A-Day game is one week from today.