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Spring Practice: Fourth Day News And Notes

The Crimson Tide football team hit the field today for the fourth of fifteen practice sessions this Spring, and here are a few news, notes, and observations:

  • For the second practice in a row, we worked out in full pads. I'm not sure if we did any actual contact in scrimmage situations, but we left the shorts and spider pads in the locker room. Without having first-hand knowledge of the practice schedule, I imagine we are in shorts and spider pads on Friday, using that to get prepared for the first scrimmage of the Spring on Saturday afternoon.
  • Making an appearance at practice today was Hal Mumme. I'm sure most of you 'Bama fans will remember him as head coach of Kentucky in the late 1990's, and it was his Air Raid offense -- now in use by Mike Leach at Texas Tech -- that propelled Tim Couch into the top of the NFL Draft. He had nothing but good things to say about McElwain on his visit, and I wonder if McElwain wasn't getting a few pointers from Mumme. McElwain has been on the record stating that he wants to keep opposing defenses up late at night -- i.e. he's not planning on being vanilla -- so I wonder if we'll see a few Air Raid principles incorporated into our offense this season.
  • Watching the practice videos, it certainly seemed like a very lively practice session, to put it mildly. Guys were going at each other pretty hard, and it was easy to see. Andre Smith and Brandon Deaderick had a bit of a scuffle, and as a whole things seemed very up-pace and physical. Antoine Caldwell, in particular, was quoted as saying, "I felt like today was one of the best practices we've had in two or three years since I've been here. Guys getting after it, people stepping up and everybody taking responsibility and doing their job. It was a good day." At the very least, it's nice to see guys with a little piss and vinegar in their system actually showing some spunk on the practice field, instead of the same ol' tired, lackadaisical performances we have unfortunately become so accustomed to in the past.
  • Jimmy Johns is one of the hot topics this Spring, and he's running with the first team on defense. He's got a lot to learn mentally, but he is seemingly adjusting quite well. He has a very good, positive attitude about it all, and the fact that he had 15 bowl practices last winter has helped his transition. His teammates have nothing but praise for him, and honestly I have a feeling he is going to do pretty well. He has bulked up to almost 250 pounds now, and he could combine with Rolando McClain for one hell of an inside linebacker duo. I know he has a lot to learn, but the bowl practices and the spring workouts give him a much better chance than you would probably think when Fall rolls around. Those 30 practices plus the off-season work will give him a big advantage over the incoming true freshmen -- guys like Jerrell Harris, Donta' Hightower, and Courtney Upshaw -- who will be vying for starting jobs at linebacker when Fall camp opens. I won't be the least bit surprised if he starts; it's just a shame he is just now getting where he should have been all along.
  • We've been experimenting a good bit at defensive end the past couple of days, but not with who you would expect. The scuttlebutt for months has been that Lorenzo Washington would go to end, but not apparently so. On Monday, Josh Chapman saw some time at end, and received nothing but praise from Saban, who specifically singled out his progress as a player and also his work ethic. And today we had Bryan Motley working out some at defensive end. I highly doubt this is the last we hear of all of this.
  • The truth behind all of this is we have a lot of depth at defensive tackle, but have a terrible shortage of depth at defensive end. With Washington, Chapman, Motley, McCullough, and eventually Murphy and Cody at tackle, we really have too many bodies there, if anything. Given the shortage of depth at defensive end, I think it's just a given that some of these tackles are going to be moved to end. We are experimenting with a few different guys right now, and by the end of the Spring I think we will have a guy or two now at tackle moved to end permanently.
  • The only problem with converting all of these defensive tackles into defensive ends is that it does not give us a good pass rusher off of the edge. We need to replace Gilberry's 10 sacks from a year ago, and these converted DT's probably won't be able to do that. To be sure, they will make for a tough line that could very well be hell to run against -- especially if they play in front of a couple of 250+ pound inside linebackers -- but I'm afraid the pass rush may very well end up as a liability. Harsh truth: We weren't very good at rushing the passer a year ago, and may not improve a whole lot next season.
  • Nikita Stover, it has been mentioned in several articles, has some sort of injury. He was in a black no-contact jersey today, and did not work out with the team. He spent practice riding on one of the exercise bikes. I don't have a timetable for a return, but Darius Hanks stepped up in his absence and led the receivers through the drills. Given the fact that he didn't work out at all today, I'm not sure if he will participate in the scrimmage on Saturday. And it only further opens the door for Hanks.
  • The terrible Spring continues for Lionell Mitchell. He came in needing a strong showing to solidify the starting job opposite Kareem Jackson, but it's just not working out. He missed the first couple of practices with the flu, and he was out of practice again today, this time riding the exercise bike while sporting a black no-contact jersey. For a guy who needed a strong showing, nothing is going right for him. He needs to get healthy and get productive, ASAP, and in the meantime the cornerback job remains wide open. Something tells me that there is a young man sitting at home right now in Lucedale, Mississippi with a big smile on his face.
  • Demetrius Goode and Glen Coffee continue to sport black no-contact jerseys, as the former continues to recover from knee surgery and the latter returns from shoulder surgery. In fact, neither of those two may see any contact work all Spring. Coffee was very non-committal about participating in contact work this Spring when he was asked by reporters, and for Goode to participate in contact work, it would take an extremely quick recovery from his torn ACL (less than eight months). I figure the odds are that neither of these two guys get involved in any contact work until the Fall. Considering that Jeramie Griffin also remains sidelined (knee), we may very well go into the scrimmage on Saturday with only two healthy tailbacks: Terry Grant and Roy Upchurch. If either one of those two plan on grabbing the starting job at tailback, the time is now.