Spring practice is now officially underway, as the Tide worked out this afternoon in helmets and shorts in the first of their fifteen practice sessions. The following are a few notes of things that I noticed today after watching some of the practice videos and following things online:
- Rolando McClain was not in a black no-contact jersey, but he still had some sort of a cast or splint on his injured thumb. I doubt it's going to hinder him that much or keep him out of any contact work, but apparently the healing from his off-season thumb surgery is still a work in progress.
- Aside from McClain, there seemingly wasn't any other surprises on the injury front. For the most part, the guys who were in the black no-contact jerseys were pretty much as expected. Fortunately, both Terry Grant and Roy Upchurch were wearing crimson.
- I did notice at a couple of different points that we had four linebackers running drills together, and they were Chavis Williams, Rolando McClain, Jimmy Johns, and Cory Reamer. You never want to speculate too much, but that sounded like what many thought would be a possible "starting" linebacking corps in the Spring. I wouldn't be shocked if that was the case, but at the least it's a heck of a coincidence.
- Brandon Fanney, who spent last season as the back-up to Keith Saunders at the Jack position, spent yesterday working at defensive end. It's probably a realization of two harsh realities: One, Fanney wasn't doing all that well at Jack and was unlikely to see playing time, and two, a complete lack of depth at defensive end. Even though he's small at the moment for a 3-4 end, at the very least it's nice to see another body there. He has to put on a lot of weight, though, in the summer before he can be considered a viable option this Fall.
- Tarence Farmer was working at wide receiver, which honestly is a bit odd. He was signed as a corner / safety prospect, and spend last season working in the defensive backfield. Given all of that talent we seemingly have at wide-out, that's a bit of an odd development.
- Greg McElroy has apparently switched jersey numbers from #17 to #12. That is a bit odd because when he came to Alabama, he talked about wearing #12 and then didn't pick it when he actually arrived. I don't know what caused the number switch -- no one was wearing it before -- but it has apparently happened.
- Speaking of numbers, the two signees in the 2008 recruiting class that enrolled early -- Corey Smith and Chris Jackson -- participated in workouts today. Smith was sporting #44, and Jackson was wearing #86. I imagine that won't change during the rest of the Spring, so keep your eye out for those two numbers if you want to see those two in action.
- Also, for a few other numbers for the redshirt freshmen. Jeramie Griffin is wearing #34 (though he didn't participate in drills today with what I think is a leg injury). Brandon Gibson is wearing #11; he was wearing #84 last year but I believe Colin Peek is wearing that now. Demetrius Goode is now #6, he was #33 last year.
- Another change was Charles Hoke. The senior tight end was moved temporarily to offensive tackle, and is currently wearing #77. I don't think he's going there for good, but as I talked about earlier in the preview of the offense, we are just so thin at tackle that we need someone there just to do some of the drill work.
- Looks can be deceiving, of course, but Jimmy Johns just looks like a stud linebacker. He's got great size, obviously is in very good condition, and he is just such an impressive physical specimen. He may never realize his potential there, but the potential is there, and it's plain as day.
- Chris Underwood, the redshirt freshman tight end we signed a year ago, has definitely made some progress in the weight room and in the S&C program, but I'm afraid he still has a ways to go. He may be a good receiving threat, but I'm not sure how well he is going to be able to do as an in-line blocker at that size.
- Andre Smith is still a big guy, very big. I'm not sure that it's a problem, but I honestly don't think anyone would be complaining if he dropped a few pounds. According to the official roster last year, Smith was the biggest guy on the roster by a margin of 23 pounds. He has an unbelievable amount of athletic ability for a guy of his size, and if he can put it all together he could very well be a once-in-a-generation player, but the size has to be a concern. It will be interesting to see how his quickness has improved once we get started in scrimmage work.
- Mike Johnson, on the other hand, has seemingly dropped a few pounds and is looking in very good shape. That's definitely good news for us because he really struggled last year against the athletic ends -- as mentioned in the offensive preview -- and trimming down and getting more lean should be able to give him a major step towards fixing that problem.
- On a final note, just reading all of the quotes and comments, it is certainly nice to see everyone talking about all of the progress that we have made over a year ago. Coach Saban in particular has talked about the progress that everyone has made in the S&C program, and has also talked about how seemingly more people have bought into the system. Hopefully that will bring more positive results in the 2008 campaign.
In the meantime, our own alextuscaloosa has posted several very nice, high-quality photographs from the first Spring session on his Flickr account. Click here to see them. Go ahead and bookmark his Flickr page, I imagine he will probably add a bit more photos as time goes on. Either way, feel free to browse, he has some great photos.