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Fall Practice Notes

Fall practice is now well underway, and by this point we have a relatively good grasp on things. Early on in camp, it's a bit difficult to tell what is really going on, but after the second scrimmage, things are pretty much settled. At this point, camp is almost over; a few more practices, and we'll start preparations for Western Carolina. Without further adieu, here are some notes following the second scrimmage:

  • John Parker Wilson had yet another good day, and he continues to have a solid Fall camp. Some people have made a big deal out of the three interceptions he has thrown thus far, but you shouldn't read much into that. For one, his interception rate isn't particularly high, and two, you should never criticize someone based solely on raw turnovers. You have to be able to put those numbers into the proper context, and we cannot do that. We simply do not have the information to do so. The three interceptions may have been the result of a tipped ball, a bobble by the receiver, and a fifty yard pass on 3rd and 29 that had no return. We just don't know, and unless you know that, you can't really criticize the guy. Moreover, Wilson is naturally going to be a bigger risk-taker in practice, so if anything a higher interception rate, relatively speaking, should be expected. At bottom, you shouldn't worry about those at the moment. Wilson has looked good thus far, no two ways about it. All indications point to him improving on a solid sophomore campaign.
  • Terry Grant continues to do extremely well. He's just explosive as hell, no two ways about it. He is going to be a threat for a big play every time he touches the ball, whether it be as a tailback in the running game or as a receiver in the passing game. At this point, there is simply no doubt about it: Terry Grant is our starting tailback.
  • Jimmy Johns continues to get a lot of carries from the fullback position. I've stated this before, and I will again in this forum: Jimmy Johns, though a fullback, will see the ball a lot. Rest assured, this will not be like it was a year ago with Le'Ron McClain where the fullback is used almost solely as a blocker. Johns will see the ball quite a bit, and likely be used in a role very similar to how Jacob Hester is used at LSU.
  • We still threw the ball the overwhelming majority of the time, just like we did in the first scrimmage. All told, we threw the ball 62 per cent of the time in the second scrimmage, and um, yeah, that's a lot. I wouldn't expect that to carry over into the season, but it's an interesting note.
  • The defense played much better, and if all sources are to be believed, they have made consistent progress each and every day since the offense dominated them in the first scrimmage. Obviously, that's very good news for us. Even Coach Saban has pointed out the improvement with the defense, and as I've said before, any time the Nicktator doles out praise, you should take notice.
  • Marcel Stamps came out of nowhere, and had nine tackles and a sack. If you recall, Stamps came in as a wide receiver in 2004, and made his name as a special teams headhunter. Shortly thereafter, he was moved to linebacker, and basically fell off the face of the Earth. Seriously, I haven't heard his name mentioned since Saban arrived, and then he lit up the playing field during the past scrimmage. I would like to know exactly what all happened here. Perhaps Stamps really stepped up and played lights out, or perhaps he just racked up a lot of relatively meaningless tackles against the scrubs. I suppose we'll see shortly.
  • Lorenzo Washington, who many had prematurely labeled as a bust, is stepping up nicely. Finally, and I do mean finally, he has put on some weight, and he's playing well. With Brian Motley missing the scrimmage due to an injury, Washington stepped up and played nicely. Though Motley is likely to win the starting job nonetheless, Washington seems like he will be the back-up. He's made major strides over the summer, to say the least. He wasn't looking to be anywhere near the back-up after Spring practice, but now that seems to be the case.
  • Rolando McClain continues to impress nearly everyone. Saban has singled him out for praise, and he looks very good. The physical abilities are there, no doubt about it, and he seems to be picking up the mental aspect of the game as well. At bottom, there doesn't seem to be very many people who are going to out-work this kid. He will likely start early on in the season.
  • Darren Mustin continues to have a good Fall camp, as well. Mustin has good size, is a hard worker, and has the mental aspects of the scheme down. He's not going to be the second coming of Demeco Ryans, but he looks like a player who could potentially give us some solid production. He's not someone who you'll hear the talking heads drool over, but he could be a valuable player for us in 2007. A big, physical, and technically sound linebacker can always produce value for a team, particularly when they are thin at the position like we are.
  • Luther Davis made an appearance in the stat column. We expect a lot out of Mr. Davis, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, he missed several practices after experiencing a neck injury earlier in camp, but he's out of the black no-contact jersey, and made his presence known in the second scrimmage, racking up two sacks. Barring injury, Davis will play in 2007, and could be a key player for us. At the very least, it's likely he sees some meaningful playing time, so he needs to be a solid player. His performance is good news for us.
  • Leigh Tiffin went five of seven on field goal tries, as Jamie Christensen set out with a strained quad. One of Tiffin's misses came when he came up just short on a 57-yard field goal try, and without doubt he did a lot to improve his chances of playing time. Despite his meltdown against Arkansas last year, Tiffin won us the Vanderbilt game with a magnificent fourth quarter kick, and to be brutally honest, he's a much more technically sound kicker than Christensen. Beyond that, his leg is just as strong, if not stronger, than Christensen's. It should surprise no one if Tiffin is our place-kicker this Fall.
  • P.J. Fitzgerald looked better than he did in the first scrimmage. He averaged right around 39 yards per punt, which is a tad better than the 37 yards per punt he averaged in the first scrimmage. For better or worse, at the moment Fitzgerald is our only punter seeing any time. That may change when others can report once school starts, but unless someone can quickly step up then, Fitzgerald is our guy. We'll either sink or swim with him. We just all have to hope can improve, or punting could be a major problem again for us in 2007.
  • Good news abounds again on the injury front. Regardless of when they occur, injuries are costly, but nevertheless they really hurt when they occur when you are playing yourself in practice. All told, you just always hold your breath in that sense. Fortunately, though, we emerged from this scrimmage healthy, just like we did for the first scrimmage. Aside from the ACL injury to Demetrius Goode, we are seemingly a pretty healthy football team. That's great news for us. We have the potential for a good season, but the fact is we simply do not have the quality depth needed to do so in the face of an injury outbreak. If we are going to go where we want to this year, the injury bug simply cannot rear its ugly head. Thankfully, isn't a problem to this point.