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Final Fall Practice Notes

Finally, fall practice has come to a close at Alabama. All told, the Tide logged 20 practices over the course of 16 days, most of them coming in 100+ degree heat. It's all over now though, and game-specific preparations have started for Western Carolina, which awaits the Tide in a mere five days. Now that it's all said and done, here is one last, final set of Fall practice notes:

  • Terry Grant is the starting tailback. End of story, period. He is our guy, and he's going to get the carries. There was a battle for the starting tailback job, and he won it, hands down.
  • Jimmy Johns will play fullback (and some tailback, too), and he will get the ball quite a bit. If I had to give a rough guesstimate of the over / under on the number of touches he will receive per game, I would say twelve. Bottom line, this isn't going to be Le'Ron McClain 2.0. Moreover, Johns will most likely be the second rusher, for all intents and purposes. No he is not the back-up tailback, but he will likely get more touches than the back-up tailback. If you look closely at the scrimmage statistics, Johns has gotten more touches than Coffee and Upchurch. That will likely continue in the regular season.
  • At back-up tailback, there is nothing definite at the moment. Honestly, Upchurch and Coffee have gotten about the same number of carries, and neither really seems to be ahead of the other. The truth is, the running game will likely be about what Grant and Johns do, and Upchurch / Coffee coming off of the bench will be more of an afterthought than anything else. As for which one of those two gets the touches in a particular week, it will probably be a combination of who is the best pass blocker / healthiest / farthest removed from Saban's doghouse.
  • Mike Johnson likely has the starting right tackle job. That could possibly change, but it really just doesn't look like that's going to happen. More likely, B.J. Stabler will be a back-up who will rotate between tackle and guard whenever the need arises.
  • Mike McCoy will get a lot of playing time at receiver. In fact, some people have speculated that he has taken Keith Brown's starting job, and that speculation seems to have a lot of validity. In one of the earlier videos on Crimson Tradition, Brown seemed to be walking with a slight limp -- as Andy Griffith would say, a little hitch in his getalong -- and shortly thereafter, John Parker Wilson and others, much to Saban's chagrin, mentioned to the media of how McCoy had been running with the first team. So, again, there is a very legitimate possibility that Brown has been relegated to the back-up job. Either way, though, McCoy has looked very good, and impressed nearly everyone this Fall. He'll see a lot of playing time, and it will come in meaningful situations. 3rd and 6, late in the Tennessee game, close game, you'll probably see this guy lined up at wide-out.
  • We're going to throw the ball a lot this year, bet on it. I've posted before that we won't throw it as much as we have in the scrimmages, and while I think that's still true, the fact remains that we are going to throw it a lot. The run / pass numbers may come out around 50 / 50 simply because passing plays that end in a sack / scramble are technically counted as running plays (though we'll adjust for that in the advanced statistics), but we're probably going to throw the football more than we'll run it. And honestly, that's not a bad strategy. It should pay off pretty well considering Wilson looks poised for a good year, and that the receiving corps is so very deep. It's just simple, you have a good quarterback, and arguably the best receiving corps we've ever had at Alabama, so you throw it a lot. We'll become much more run oriented if Wilson gets hurt, of course, but as long as he stays healthy, this team will probably throw the football more than we ever have at Alabama.
  • The interior of the defensive line will continue to be anchored by Brian Motley. Yes he had hand surgery recently, and he will play with a cast, but he'll be the starter. Lorenzo Washington will probably be the first off the bench. Washington may start early on, depending on Motley's recovery, but unless Washington really wows people in the interim, it's Motley's job.
  • Rolando McClain is going to play, and he's going to start. Exactly where though, we don't know. It'll be inside linebacker, of course, but will he relegate Mustin or Hall to the bench? You would think that he would take Darren Mustin's job, and play alongside Prince Hall. That said, you keep hearing about how McClain may actually take Prince Hall's job and play alongside Mustin. You would think that after the great year that Hall had a year ago, he would be a lock, but perhaps he has slipped into the doldrums like he did his true freshman year. And let's just be honest here: Nick Saban doesn't care about what happened last year, and Prince Hall's performance then is no different. Or perhaps it's just a lot of mis-information, who knows? We'll see shortly, of course, but one way or the other, expect to see a lot of #25 on the field.
  • The cornerback spot opposite Simeon Castille is still up for grabs apparently. It will most likely go to either Lionell Mitchell, Kareem Jackson, or Marquis Johnson. A decision, of course, will be made in the coming days (though I'm sure we won't find out until next Saturday), but at the moment no one can really say a particular individual has won the job. Mitchell would probably be considered the front-runner to start against Western Carolina, but it's still pretty unsettled, and the race between the three if very fluid in terms of positioning.
  • The safety position is still a very big question mark. Most had previously hoped that Michael Ricks would qualify, and that Justin Woodall would step up and take a starting job, but neither has happened. For better or for worse, the starting safeties seem to be Rashad Johnson and Marcus Carter. All told, Carter is the most likely to lose his starting job, but at the moment it seems like he's hanging on to his starting job.
  • Leigh Tiffin is the starting place-kicker. Though Christensen is currently hurt (that guy has to win some sort of award for the most-injured kicker ever), even Saban admitted as much that before Christensen's injury, Tiffin had been the front-runner. Honestly, that's good news for us. Tiffin is a much better kicker, end of story. Christensen made his name by hitting three short field goals in 2005, and that's it. Granted they were big kicks, but they were still kicks that any decent kicker should have made. And the Hand of God must have directed the Cotton Bowl kick between the uprights, that's the only plausible explanation for him hitting that kick. Tiffin is simply much more sound from a technical perspective, which leads to much greater consistency on distance and accuracy, and he has a stronger leg. And of course, it helps that he's not seemingly always hurt.