A few news, notes, and observations from the seventh practice of the Spring:
- Normally, a coach would take it easy on his guys by giving them a day in shorts a mere 48 hours from a 125-play scrimmage. But, you know... Nicktator. Alabama worked out again today in full pads and helmets for the umpteenth time this Spring. At the very least, Saban is working these guys very hard, if nothing else.
- One of the more interesting things disclosed as of late has been with Terry Grant. In talking with the media in sit-down interviews, he has stated that he played with the sports hernia for essentially all of last year. According to him, he first felt a problem in the second half of the Western Carolina game, which far predates any previous estimate of his injury not popping up until near the end of the season. I suppose, in an odd way, that may be good news. Grant did pretty well as a freshmen, and if he did that being limited with a sports hernia injury, you really cannot help but wonder just how good he can get once he gets more experience and stays healthy. I still don't think he will ever be an every-down back -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- but that revelation, if true, does make you re-evaluate what you thought of him as a player, and at the very least makes you think he has a bigger upside than previously thought. And for the record, Grant said he is still not at 100% just yet, so keep that in mind when looking at his performance this Spring.
- At right tackle, Drew Davis is apparently moving ahead of Taylor Pharr. After swapping back and forth to this point in Spring practice, Davis seems to have overtaken Pharr. According to Coach Saban, Davis started the scrimmage with the first team, and has spent the past couple of practices, including the one yesterday, running with the first team.
- As I've stated that on numerous occasions, it is nevertheless hard to see Drew Davis, or Pharr for that matter, starting once we head to the Georgia Dome. Davis, in particular, was lightly recruited out of high school -- Southern Miss, MSU, Troy, UAB, etc. -- and he has never played. After a redshirt campaign in 2005, he played six snaps against ULM in 2006, and played a few snaps against Western Carolina in 2007. Those two appearances in garbage time are the only time he has seen the field since arriving at Alabama. To say he needed to make major improvement to be a starter at this level is probably a gross understatement of things. Regardless of who wins the starting job coming out of the Spring, I expect Tyler Love to start at right tackle in 2008, and if he struggles to adapt quickly, I imagine Mike Johnson goes back there.
- Some people have inquired about Jimmy Johns and his development. I really don't know anything specific, to be honest. His statistics weren't included in the UA press release regarding Saturday's scrimmage, and though Saban is asked about him every day, he always responds something to the effect of, "He's talented, but still learning." What we do know is that Johns has been running with the first team the entire Spring, that he is really giving the transition to linebacker his all, and that his teammates are very impressed by his athletic abilities and work ethic. And I think we can safely say from all of this that Johns is almost certainly going to start in 2008. The mental transition is big, but the fact of the matter is that Johns will get nine months in the system -- plus 30 practices -- before Fall camp starts, and it only further helps his transition that he has been in a collegiate program for three years now. Johns is obviously beating out everyone else on the current roster, and it's highly unlikely, given all that, a true freshman will come in and take away his playing time. The real question is just how much his rise has to do with his good play and how much has to do with our lack of depth at the position. The A-Day game will give us a lot of insight into that.
- Lionell Mitchell did not practice again today, and spent the entire afternoon on the exercise bike. Mitchell, however, was the only player on the entire roster who was in shorts and not in pads, interestingly enough. I imagine that he will miss the rest of Spring at this point. And after the scrimmage on Saturday, Saban said Mitchell's back problem could be a long-term problem for the Tide. I have no clue as to what he was getting at there.
- We are quickly reaching the point where we are going to have to consider that some of these guys still wearing the black no-contact jersey are just going to miss the rest of the Spring. We are essentially halfway through Spring practice at this point, and if some of these guys don't return in the next few days, we will probably just go ahead and shut it down for them. Motley and Sikes are definitely out, and the same probably goes for Patrick Crump and Milton Talbert. And at this point, I figure the odds are against Mitchell and Stover returning, though at least it is legitimate possibilities for them.
- Nick Gentry was back in practice today in a crimson jersey after fighting back from an ankle injury. Coming out of Prattville, Gentry was actually a pretty highly-touted prospect, but unfortunately had some injury issues. He needed shoulder surgery before he got to the Capstone, which greatly limited him as a true freshman, and now he has missed a good bit of Spring with the ankle injury. He's a talented kid, but he's buried on the depth chart at strongside defensive end. Hopefully he can finally stay healthy enough to make progress in the S&C program this summer and in the Fall.
- As a random note, Bobby Greenwood has seemingly bulked up a little bit. If you look at the videos and picture of him, he looks to have put on ten or maybe fifteen pounds. That's probably good news for us, especially since Greenwood is at strongside defensive end now. He's not going to be a particularly good pass rusher anyway, in all likelihood, and him bulking up will just make him a bit better in the running game.