Fall camp officially came to an end yesterday afternoon, and with the fall academic semester beginning today, practice sessions for the Tide will be getting back to normal. The grueling two-a-day practice sessions are over, and from here on out the practices that take place will be much more like what the team will see during the season itself. It's all downhill from here, and we're only a little over a week away from putting in opponent-specific preparations for the season opener against San Jose State.
With classes starting today, the roster officially expanded to allow for 105 players. In real terms, that means that Robby Green returned to practice today, and along with him a bunch of walk-ons that you've probably never heard of before. The athletic department will wait a few days before they officially announce all of the names of the new arrivals, but for now the roster is set.
And, believe it or not, it seems like we may have a late-breaking roster addition. We don't have anything official from UA just yet -- it will probably be a few days regardless -- but Travis Reier of 'BamaOnline spotted Harrison Jones working out with the team this afternoon:
It doesn't take a football genius to figure out what probably happened to free up a spot. With Deion Belue officially biting the dust, that likely opened up a spot for Harrison Jones to avoid the greyshirt. Consider that very good news for both Alabama and Harrison. While Harrison remains a long-term project who will almost certainly redshirt in 2010, the biggest obstacle in his developmental path remains his lack of size, something that a four-month crash course with Scott Cochran and the S&C program will go a long way towards rectifying. No one really doubts Jones' athletic abilities and his skills as a receiver, and if he can quickly bulk up in the S&C program like his older brother did -- who, in twelve months, went from being way too light to play tackle to being a high-end guard -- then he may be ready to contribute sooner rather than later.
As for other practice news, the usual suspects round things up nicely. A couple of comments on a few developments:
- Kendall Kelly remains out and did not return to the team today despite the expansion of the roster. With no official word coming one way or the other, I think the circumstantial evidence here points to this affliction -- whatever it is -- being quite serious, and for now I wouldn't expect him to see the field any in 2010. At this point, I think you probably just have to hope that he can overcome whatever is ailing him, and return in 2011. Let's hope this doesn't turn into a medical scholarship.
- DeQuan Menzie was back at practice today, though apparently not quite at 100%. His hamstring injury has to be of particular concern simply because hamstring injuries tend to recur at such high rates, but with that said it's clear that his Achilles recovery was nothing short of miraculous, so hopefully that bodes well for his recovery here. If nothing else, we need Menzie to play and play well, and a hat tip to him for battling through all of the injuries. This kid damn well better get a fine ovation when his name is announced on September 4th.
- DeMarcus Milliner missed yet again today, more bad news for 'Bama in the secondary. Milliner will likely be back at 100% by the time Penn State comes to town, but as a true freshman he needs every snap that he can get, and every minute he spends on the exercise bike is a minute that he cannot be on the field improving as a player. This isn't a long-term injury by any stretch, but it's certainly an injury that will hinder his short-term development. Hopefully he can get back soon.
- The best news to date in Fall camp? Apparently no injuries whatsoever to the offensive line, particularly good news considering that both Carpenter and Vlachos played hurt for much of the 2009. I know many of you think I'm the resident pessimist, but I'll admit that I am exceedingly optimistic regarding the offensive line this year. No excuses, these guys have the opportunity to be the best offensive line we've had in ages.
Moving on, I think we're all familiar with the name Will Lowery at this point, but even so I doubt very many people know much about him. To that end, Don Kausler wrote an excellent piece profiling Lowery and other walk-ons today, and consider it a must-read. Money quote:
"I'm definitely the smallest and the slowest out of our secondary," he said. "Mark Barron and Dre (Kirkpatrick) and B.J. (Scott), those guys are phenomenal athletes, just the best athletes in the country. I know that I'm not ever going to be able to keep up in a straight race with those guys or bench as much as they do in the weight room.
"Even in high school, I wasn't gifted size-wise. I always knew that to play, I had to know what I was doing. You have to play fast, and you have to play fearless, and you have to play hard."
You have to love a kid who, in an era of ridiculously inflated athlete egos, openly accepts his physical shortcomings and instead chooses to overcome adversity with hard work and dedication. The bit about Reamer sums up the route that so many of the 2009 starters used to earn playing time.
Finally, we have the second scrimmage of Fall coming up this Saturday, and pay especially close attention to this one. With practices now becoming shorter and more infrequent, and with opponent-specific work coming shortly, repetitions will become a very scarce commodity that are only rewarded to the players that you know for certain that will be called upon in meaningful situations. In real terms, it means that the guys who legitimately want to play this year better get it together immediately, and after this scrimmage is all said and done we'll largely know which players will play, which players will ride the pine, and what roles these players will be called on to perform.
Update: Gentry Estes confirms that Harrison Jones returned to the team today. He, however, mentions the developments with Jeramie Griffin and Kendall Kelly as the possible avenues in which Jones avoided the greyshirt, and makes no mention of Belue as a possibility.