Field Goal Kicking
Alabama will be holding open tryouts for field goal kicking from here until August 24th. Anyone who can consistently kick extra points and chip shot field goals are free to try out and will be given a scholarship, plus the customary Dodge Charger of his or her choice.
This may have been the worst collective performance by the quarterbacks in an A-Day we've seen, in well, I can't remember when. None of the QB's looked ready to take on the SEC, and with their poor performance Saturday, Jacob Coker looks to be the odds on favorite to take over as the starter the moment he sets foot on campus.
Note: He still isn't even on the team, if that makes you feel any better.
Blake Sims received a fair share of hype and positive coach speak from Saban during Spring practice and I think that made us all want so desperately to see him live up to the hype. Well, I think it's fair to say that didn't happen after going 13-30, throwing just one touchdown and two horrible interceptions (one of which was a pick six). The wide receivers didn't do him any favors dropping what seemed like 20 passes but I think his entire performance speaks for itself.
While Sims showed flashes of improvement here and there, the truth is overall he seemed unsure of himself, inaccurate and worst of all, indecisive. I know it was a glorified, controlled scrimmage but for most of the game he never seemed comfortable in the pocket (which could be blamed on the offensive line) and was widely inaccurate on most his throws. In fact, his two best pass attempts came late in the game and seemed to come against 3rd and 4th stringers.
He still has time to work on his accuracy and decision making but if his performance in the Spring game was the best he's got, the starting job come August will be between Cooper Bateman and Jacob Coker.
Speaking of Bateman, from what I saw he out-shined Blake Sims but not by much. Playing behind the second team offensive line, which was thoroughly dominated by the 2nd team defensive front seven. he showed a strong arm, nice touch on the deep passes but much like Sims, was in-accurate and inconsistent for most the game. Bateman's shining moments were the beautiful over the shoulder pass to Robert Foster early in the game and the late touchdown pass to ArDarius Stewart in the 4th.
I would have liked to see Bateman play with the 1st team offensive line, which played just slightly better than the 2nd teamers, for the 2nd half just to see if he would be able to have more success. Sadly that never happened.
The rest of the quarterbacks were about what we thought they'd be, inexperienced and career back-ups. Cornwell may be a future starter but I literally laughed out loud at his first pass attempt.
Hat tip to Alec Morris though for showing he may actually get some PT this season as the team's punter. :/
The Semi Ugly and almost OK
The 1st Team Offensive Line
Notice I didn't say the 2nd team OL who was, as I mentioned above, whipped on nearly every snap by the 2nd team defense.
But for a unit that has only had 15 practices together and who haven't played as a cohesive group of five for longer than a few snaps, I felt the first team offensive line played reasonably well. At this point of Spring since the offense is breaking in a new offensive coordinator, quarterback and two new starters at OL, and in a Spring scrimmage no less, the defense is always going to be ahead of the offense. This held certainly true on Saturday. On more than one occasion simple stunts by the defensive line confused the blocking assignments and allowed for more than one sack.
Cam Robinson garnered most of my attention and outside of the first series where he was beaten badly on the first two plays, I felt he settled in nicely and generally played well for a guy who's been on the team for barely four months. Sure, his footwork needs a lot of work, and he needs to be able to sustain blocks longer while run blocking, but that will come with time. Again, he's been on the team since January.
Leon Brown also looked good at times at right guard. His pass blocking needs to develop but I saw him drive block guys while run blocking and even looked agile for a man his size on pulls. The aforementioned stunts by the defensive line confused him and right tackle Grant Hill late in the game, but that again should be taken in context and in stride.
I haven't watched the game enough times to have any real in-depth thoughts on how Arie Kouandjio, Ryan Kelly and Austin Shepherd played. My limited opinion here is that they played well enough to solidify their starting jobs and that's good enough for me.
WHERE THE HECK IS OJ HOWARD THAT'S WHAT I WANT TO KNOW, LANE.
This is where I start to hope that Coker is all that everyone says he is because Alabama is absolutely loaded at the wide out position. Amari Cooper showed at times why he's likely the best WR in the SEC (though he seemed to be moving at half speed all game). Chris Black is a budding star, if he can learn to catch a pass with any amount of consistency. Robert Foster and Raheem Falkins are future All-Americans. If this group had not dropped so many passes they'd be getting a better grade.
RUN THE DAMN BALL LANE
Okay, now that that's out of the way, I felt good about our running back corps after Saturday. Yeah, Drake still has fumbleitis but Yeldon seems to be Yeldon and Henry showed he can get the tough yards between the tackles. Tenpenny even looked great at times. Run blocking, especially by the 2nd team offensive line, was anemic to say the least but our backs are playing like you'd expect Alabama running backs to be playing. Which is to say they are hard runners, who have great vision and are tough to bring down.
This is the classic a positive is a negative which can be a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it. Had the quarterbacks played slightly better and the wide receivers not dropped so many passes, we may be having a different discussion this morning but here we are. Again, maybe someone can point out something I didn't see, but I don't remember the first team corners or safeties playing out of position or making the big mental mistakes we saw last year.
Landon Collins is the leader of the group but sadly this is likely the last Spring we get to seem him in Crimson and White. And I don't know about you but I liked what I saw out of Geno Smith. With his experience at corner, he's got the coverage skills you need in a free safety and size to help in run support. Barring any injuries, we'll be just fine at safety.
With the struggles in the passing game, neither Cyrus Jones or Bradley Sylve were seriously tested on Saturday, so take that for what it's worth. Tony Brown is likely the next great Alabama corner and was the star of the 2nd team defense.
The good news here is we didn't see in glaring mistakes or WR's running down the field wide open. I take that as a win.
The Really Good
The Front Seven
Here's another positive that may be a negative but the defensive front sevens for both the 1st and 2nd team were the stars of the game. They consistently controlled the line of scrimmage, were able to generate a solid pass rush and created multiple turnovers, one resulting in a touchdown for their offense.
I feel like we've said that before after Bama Spring games...weird.
If he wasn't, D.J. Pettway should have been named the defensive MVP and may be the next Marcell Dareus. He was lined up against Cam Robinson on multiple occasions and won the battle most of the time. His pick six can be attributed to great instincts on his part and a poor initial sell by Cam Rob. He was also lined up inside and was able to generate a push on run plays and get pressure on the QB.
As far as linebackers are concerned, I can't say they did anything that either negatively or positively jumped out at me, which is basically what you want to see. Trey DePriest looked solid in run defense. Reggie Ragland and Denzel Devall both had nice games as well. Xzavier Dickson, along with Pettway, made some fantastic plays on the interior.
Reuben Foster hits hard but struggles in the wrapping up department. Take this play from early in the game for example: He reads the play perfectly, hits Drake for what should have been a two yard loss but failed to hold on letting Drake slip away. Even the hit that eventually ended his day was due to poor form tackling. The guy is a future star but needs to play with more consistency if he wants more playing time.
It's a Spring game and no one should be overly worried about what they did or didn't see Saturday. Yes, the quarterback situation seems dire but there may be help on the way in that regard. Also, we don't know what type of play calls Kiffin was making during the game. Was he making situational calls or just calling a pass play (when a run play was warranted) just to see the QB actually throw the ball? Even Saban mentioned at half-time that he was wanting Kiffin to run that ball even though the "call" should have been pass.
Anyone who is jumping to the conclusion that this team will go 7-5 or 8-4 based on what they saw on Saturday has lost his or her gump mind. Will this team go undefeated? Unlikely, but four losses? I just don't see it, not yet.
Things to look for once summer practice begins
Quarterback Competition: How long does it take Coker to win the starting job? Will it be Coker vs Sims or has Bateman jumped Sims already?
Left Tackle: Cam Robinson won the job in Spring but will Dominick Jackson make a push for the starting job?
Corner: Will Eddie Jackson return fully healthy and will Tony Brown be the #2 corner by August?