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Spring Practice News & Notes

Real life has been rudely intruding as of late, plus Yea Alabama obligations, so there haven't been any real Spring practice updates here at RBR, but thankfully that's about to change. Here goes:

  • Now that we are more than halfway through Spring practice, and with the A-Day game being a mere ten days away, I think it should be pointed out from the outset that we have continued to be fortunate on the injury front. Oh sure we've had a few minor, nagging injuries to guys like Mark Ingram and Mike Johnson, but nothing major. You never want to see anyone suffer a serious injury in the Spring because that generally means the will either miss the following season entirely or be hampered throughout a large portion of the season, so the good health of the roster thus far has been a positive sign, and hopefully one that will continue.
  • It comes as no surprise that the quarterback battle has taken center stage this Spring, but the strong showing thus far by Greg McElroy has been a bit of a surprise. He had a terrible Spring a year ago, but thankfully he has looked much better this season. The statistical disparity between himself and Star Jackson in the first scrimmage should be viewed in the context that Jackson was played with less talent around (i.e. the second-team offense), and a better opponent (i.e. the first team defense), but nevertheless it seems relatively clear at this point that McElroy is doing what he needs to do in order to win the starting job. Things are still early, but the smart money is clearly on McElroy at this point.
  • With Mark Ingram possibly missing the rest of Spring practice with a minor injury, that may actually work out well for us. With Ingram on the exercise bike, the likely top three tailbacks in 2009 are not currently participating -- Upchurch is not cleared for contact drills, and Trent Richardson is still in Pensacola -- and in real terms that means guys like Terry Grant, Jeramie Griffin, Ivan Matchett, Jermaine Preyer, and Demetrius Goode will be getting all of the practice reps. Had Ingram and Upchurch been healthy they would have drastically had their reps reduced, but now those guys get much more in terms of opportunities to show themselves. In other words, it gives our coaching staff a better chance to evaluate these players, and furthermore it gives the players in question opportunities to prove themselves that they would have otherwise not received. All in all, you never want to see anyone miss time, but in this particular case it could actually prove beneficial to the Tide.
  • The tight end position has been taken, predictably, by Georgia Tech transfer Colin Peek, who had a great scrimmage recently. Truth be told, many thought that Peek would actually represent an upgrade over the departed Nick Walker, and early indications seem to prove those notions correct. The real question is after Peek, with regard to who takes over Travis McCall's old role as a bruising blocker in the running game. I'm afraid that only redshirt freshman Michael Williams has the physical skill set needed to do that, and we'll just have to see how he performs later on this Spring.
  • The offensive line is apparently somewhat set. James Carpenter has stepped into the left tackle position and played well, as hoped, and it looks like he has that starting job locked down. Moreover, Mike Johnson and Drew Davis have the starting jobs locked down, respectively, at left guard and right tackle. However, the starting jobs at right guard and center are currently very much up for grabs.
  • At center, there is a heated battle between William Vlachos and David Ross. Evan Cardwell is also at center, but he isn't going to be a factor, and the race is clearly between Vlachos and Ross. All in all, Vlachos is your more prototypical center, and that's most likely the only position he can really play. He's a short guy with short arms (i.e. not a tackle), and he's probably not the big road grader you need at guard, so it's either center or bust with him. David Ross, on the other hand, could play guard (and did last year), and could possibly move back there if he loses out on the center battle with Vlachos. He's still learning the ropes a bit at center, but the staff has clearly been impressed. Of course Saban has no official depth chart, but judging by the administrative groupings -- now there's a nice way of getting around that -- it looks like Ross is slightly ahead of Vlachos at this point, but we'll have to wait and see if he can hang on.
  • Right guard is also up for grabs at this point, although perhaps to a lesser degree. Many expected that David Ross, John Michael Boswell, and Chance Warmack would fight things out, but that battle hasn't quite taken shape since Ross has been moved to center. Chance Warmack has played well early on, but Boswell has continued to build off a strong true freshman campaign, and it certainly looks like the job is his.
  • Things are obviously still very early, but as of right now, the starting five on the offensive line, going left to right, seems like James Carpenter, Mike Johnson, David Ross, John Michael Boswell, and Drew Davis.
  • Defensively, the defensive line is pretty much set with a starting rotation. Terrance Cody will man the nose guard position, while Lorenzo Washington will play the end-tackle combo position, with Brandon Deaderick remaining at the natural defensive end position. Fortunately, though, the real news is that the quality depth continues to be very good, and we should be able to continuously rotate players with no real drop-off. At this point, I think we could rotate in Marcel Dareus and Luther Davis at the end positions with no real drop-off in production.
  • The linebacker corps is pretty much in disarray, and frankly it's almost impossible to get any concrete conclusions from all of the shuffling. However, I do want to take this point about linebackers to discuss Brandon Fanney, who, though now returned, was suspended for approximately half of Spring practice. Unfortunately for Fanney, a Spring suspension that long, I think, almost guarantees that he will also be suspended for a time once the season rolls around. At the very least, he's at the bottom of the depth chart now at Jack linebacker, and though he should be back for the conference opener, I think the odds are that he will be suspended for the Virginia Tech game. 
  • The defensive backfield is also in a state of disarray, and again it's almost impossible to get any concrete conclusions. Former walk-on Tyrone King has impressed some people and might be in line for some meaningful playing time come this Fall, but after that no one really knows. We all know the basic group of guys that will be seeing time -- Jackson, Arenas, Woodall, Barron, etc. -- but at this point it's all impossible to say who goes where when. Nearly all of these guys are being used at several different positions, and if you were trying to tell who would end up where, it would essentially be monkeys throwing darts at a board. Only time will tell in the defensive backfield, and even after Spring practice ends, things could be drastically altered this Fall by the arrival of Rod Woodson and Dre Kirkpatrick.
  • Finally, to close, in the first scrimmage Leigh Tiffin was 3-6 on field goal opportunities. He hit from 20, 42, and 45, but missed from 32, 45, and 54. Nice to see Tiffin remains consistently reliable as usual...