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General Thoughts From The A-Day Game

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You know the routine...

  • First and foremost, it was a very nice crowd that came out for A-Day, and that should be noted. I don't think we will ever again see a crowd of 92,000+ with the fire marshall turning people away at the gates -- in Tuscaloosa or anywhere else -- but almost 80,000 is a huge number in its own right. I love the A-Day game, but it's just a scrimmage, and the fact that we were able to put that money people in the seats to watch a 7-6 team scrimmage, that really says all you need to know about what is, with little doubt, the nation's most diehard fan base. If anything, I think the crowd would have been a few thousand higher had there not been such bad weather the night before. Either way, we should all be proud of the fan participation, and it is seemingly helping on the recruiting front yet again.
  • As for the weather, you couldn't get any better. It was pretty cool, in the mid 60's with a nice breeze, and nothing but sunny skies. It was a bad day the Friday before, but it was really great Spring football weather once 2:00 pm rolled around.
  • The grounds crew has also done a very good job, which should be noted. I wasn't a big fan of the grass design pattern that they did for the game, but the grass itself looked great. It was nice and lush and a perfect shade of green, not a dead spot to be found anywhere. I'm glad we see that now after years of a very bad looking turf to play on. Interestingly enough, the field started looking a lot better when Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. Something tells me those two things are connected.
  • Funny event right before the game... Saban was roaming the field while the team was doing pre-game stretches and drills, and was walking towards the south endzone. By this point, that end had filled up almost entirely, and he looked up into the stands and gave the slightest little wave. Not even a full wave, mind you, just a bit of a hand gesture of acknowledgement. And naturally the entire end zone went nuts. Right as the commotion broke out, Saban had a slight grin on his face, something like a puppet master must have when he knows he has people at his command on a string. And in this case, obviously he does. Either way, funny stuff.
  • Let's move on to the game itself and talk quarterbacks. John Parker Wilson got off to a bad start, but he eventually improved and had a decent day. All in all, though Wilson didn't look spectacular, he looked relatively solid, and there is simply no evidence to suggest that there is any legitimate quarterback race going on at the moment. Wilson, for all of his mediocrity, is light years ahead of McElroy and Fanuzzi. In reality, the second best quarterback on the roster is Thomas Darrah, but to be frank he won't likely challenge Wilson. Darrah's biggest role will be to, hopefully, eliminate the need for Star Jackson to play as a true freshman, giving him the opportunity to redshirt.
  • It was a bit of a middling day for the tailbacks. Roy Upchurch started nicely, but faded down the stretch. Terry Grant looked nice as a receiver and in a scatback role, but really showed no signs whatsoever of an ability to be an effective inside runner. Demetrius Goode played a little, but it was relatively obvious to see that his knee still isn't where it needs to be, and he struggled to reach the second level. Jeramie Griffin ran outside the entire time, oddly enough, and didn't get a chance in short-yardage situations. Long story short, the A-Day game merely reinforced the unsettled situation at tailback. We'll just have to wait 'til the Fall, I suppose.
  • The tight ends continue to look good. Being quite frank, we might have more quality depth there than anyway. Nick Walker looked very good as a receiver, and it seemed like he has only further built upon his breakout 2007 campaign. Ball security, unfortunately, remains a concern but he is nevertheless a very good receiving threat. And Travis McCall looked solid as usual. The real good news, though, was the developed depth. Preston Dial had a couple of standout plays, and Chris Underwood is obviously progressing nicely. Beyond that, Georgia Tech transfer Colin Peek established himself as a fine player, and honestly he is just as good as any tight end on the roster, including Walker. All told, I'm not sure we have any great players at the position, but we do have a very large amount of quality depth.
  • Wide receiver, too, had a lot of positives. Darius Hanks was as good as advertised, and we'll be hearing his name a lot. Earl Alexander is obviously making a good amount of progress, and is only going to get better. Mike McCoy has been the real surprise, though, and suddenly he has turned himself into a legitimate downfield receiving threat. The really good news of it all is that we did all of this without Nikita Stover in the line-up, arguably the best receiver on the roster. A lot of people felt that we have been establishing a lot of quality depth at wide receiver -- not even considering the 2008 recruiting haul -- and those people looked dead-on during the A-Day game.
  • The offensive line had a pretty nice day, but I wouldn't say anything overly spectacular. We struggled to run the ball, but in all fairness I think that has more to do with our problems at tailback and a surprisingly stout defense than anything to do with struggles by the offensive line. We didn't exactly pass block off the edge all that well, but it wasn't too terrible, either. The nucleus for a good line seems to be in place as long as we can stay healthy. I don't believe we have the depth to handle a good deal of injuries, but as long as we can stay healthy I think we'll be okay.
  • The surprise of the Spring almost certainly has to be the defensive line. It looked to be a major concern coming in, but surprisingly enough a lot of people have stepped up and we look a lot more solid than anyone expected. Washington continued to look good, and Josh Chapman has made big strides. At end, Bobby Greenwood has bulked up, and Alfred McCullough came on very strong. And Brandon Deaderick looked good too. All in all, it was one of the biggest surprises of the Spring, and things showed up very nicely again during the A-Day game. Those guys played well, and rotated a lot of guys all afternoon.
  • The linebacker corps didn't look great, but things didn't look all of that bad either. There is no doubt it is a concern going into the 2008 season -- and half of the 'Bama nation may need counseling if Rolando McClain gets hurt -- but I really don't know what to say. There are so many unproven players there, but things don't look all of that bad. McClain is an absolute stud, and Johns is as much of a specimen as any linebacker in the conference. Reamer might not be an every down player, but he looked fairly solid. Fanney looked like he started to come around at the Jack position, and Eryk Anders came out of literally nowhere this past Saturday to bring something we desperately need -- a speed rusher off the edge. And it's not like those are young guys, either. Aside from McClain, every single one of those guys have been on campus three years or more. And we do have a great recruiting class at linebacker coming in, and that will give us some production. Plus you have to consider that the linebacker corps doesn't take on the importance that it does when we go to nickel and dime packages, something very common today against all of the spread teams. I just don't know. The gut instinct worries me with the linebacker corps, but my brain says it could be pretty solid.
  • Speaking of the linebackers, and interesting observation on Zeke Knight. Everyone dressed in full uniform and pads for the A-Day game, even the ones who were out with injuries. There was one exception to that, Zeke Knight, who was dressed in shorts and a jersey with no pads. I really hope he makes it back, but I'm afraid it's just not going to happen. I imagine we will get an official verification one way or the other on the first day of Fall camp.
  • The secondary really looked a lot better. Rashad Johnson looked good, and Justin Woodall -- though nothing overly special -- looked better than Marcus Carter a year ago. The corners, too, all looked good and improved. All told, we should have a good defensive backfield in 2008, and the incoming freshmen -- Lawrence, Barron, Green, etc. -- will only further boost that. Saban is well-known as a great DBs coach and for having great defensive backs, and with Dre Kirkpatrick -- a five-star cornerback out of Gadsden, the #1 corner in the country, and the #1 overall prospect in the entire Southeast -- likely to sign with Alabama in eight months, the Tide is going to field some extremely good pass defenses in the coming years. Great DB talent + great DB coaching = great defensive backfield. The secondary should be good in 2008, and honestly that may be the worst defensive backfield we have for years to come.
  • All in all, it was a good day and I suppose the thing that people should take away from this past weekend -- above and beyond anything and everything else -- is that there was marked improvement from A-Day 2007 and A-Day 2008. When you look at the two games individually, there is no doubt that there is a pretty big improvement between the two years. The truth is all of this talk about "the process" is so widespread and overused that it effectively makes it become devoid of any real meaning. But we should all fight that, and realize that it is -- despite how much you hear it -- a process, and it will take time. Nothing will come quick, and nothing will come easy. Improvement will come, but even it will come in sporadic bursts and will not be even (see the final six regular season games from the 2007) season. But most importantly, improvement will come. The players are getting more talented, and for the first time in a very long time, we are actually developing existing players. And, believe it or not, you can actually see some indications that we are building some quality depth at some positions. Again, it won't come easy or come quick, but it will come. Above and beyond everything else, people should see the 2008 A-Day game and quickly realize all of the progress that has been made in the previous twelve months.