Some days in fall camp the boring dread of the long August afternoons passes without a chirp. On others the news comes so fast it's hard to keep up. Consider today one of the latter.
The biggest news of the day came from Dont'a Hightower, who missed the afternoon practice session with what was later confirmed to be a broken hand. Hightower underwent surgery today at St. Vincents to repair the damage, but whatever the exact nature of Hightower's injury it is not expected to be of any long-term significance. In his post-practice press conference, Nick Saban said the injury was not as severe as the hand injury suffered by Julio Jones a year ago, and he noted further that Hightower did not even know how he injured the hand. In fact, Saban even indicated that Hightower may be back at practice tomorrow.
By and large, this looks like the kind of injury that will send many heading for the ledges in panic, but realistically it's not a major concern at this point. By all accounts Hightower suffered the injury a few days ago and has played through it since then before realizing the relative severity of the injury, and with more than three weeks still remaining until the season opener in all likelihood he will be healed by the time Kent State arrives in Tuscaloosa. He'll be held out of contact work for a few days and will be heavily bandaged for a period of time, but the injury is apparently not severe and there should be sufficient time for him to heal before the season starts. If this is the worst injury UA collectively experiences this fall, consider that to be a sign of good injury luck.
On a more sinister note, however, Duron Carter remained in academic limbo today, and it has become clear that his status will not be resolved any time soon. His father, Cris Carter, spoke at length with the Tuscaloosa News earlier today about his son's situation. Money quote:
Contrary to what some believe, this is not an NCAA issue. Duron Carter is waiting on grades for two of his summer classes to be added to his transcript and then sent to the University of Alabama for review. Once Carter's transcript has been received and reviewed, an enrollment decision will be made. Cris Carter said he doesn't expect any problem once UA receives the completed transcript.
"Someone made a mistake," Carter said. "If I had known this was going to be a problem we could have taken care of it in July. But someone made a mistake and Duron is having to pay for it. It should be worked out soon enough. Alabama has the best compliance department in the country, and Duron will be at practice as soon as possible.
"We're working on it as I speak. Duron could be in practice by the end of next week. It just depends on when the grades come in and are added to the transcript."
Intertwined in this latest development is both an encouraging sign and a cause for concern. It is encouraging to hear that there are no underlying substantive academic concerns with Carter and that the family still expects he will qualify in due time. While things can change, the situation seems to be a when, not an if. On the other hand, Carter has already missed eight practice sessions and it seems obvious that he will miss many more before he is cleared academically. That will force him to miss at least one scrimmage during fall camp (and likely two), and it is clear at this point that Carter simply will not have the luxury of acclimation this August. Either he will be able to step in immediately and play regardless of the missed practice time and he will do so accordingly, or he won't and it will be later in the season before he can perform as we all hope. Again, both good and bad news regarding Carter.
Also pay close attention to the aforementioned Tuscaloosa News piece where Cris Carter expressly states that other schools are still recruiting his son at this point. Realistically none of that matters because both Cris and Duron have made it clear his future is in Tuscaloosa, but that ought to give you some key insight into the blood-in-the-shark-infested-waters nature of modern day recruiting tactics.
And before anyone goes off on the "NCAA stands for National <censored> Against Alabama! This is Alfy Hill all over again! Get off my lawn!" rant, keep in mind that the NCAA has nothing to do with this issue. This is purely an institutional matter involving UA Admissions and whether or not Carter has completed the coursework necessary to be admitted to UA. The NCAA is in no way involved here. If the Carters are indeed correct about what is going on here then there are many places to direct blame, but the NCAA is not one of them (and yes I died a little inside writing that).
William Vlachos also missed practice this afternoon with some sort of an unidentified illness, but he is currently listed as day-to-day and should return shortly. The interesting thing here was that in his absence Barrett Jones took some reps as the first-team center while Cyrus Kouandjio took reps as the first-team left tackle. Clearly the staff has no real intention of moving Jones to center, so you have to imagine this was just used as an opportunity to give Cyrus Kouandjio more reps as the first-team left tackle. The smart money is clearly still on Jones being the starting left tackle because of Kouandjio's youth and inexperience, but of course most true freshmen aren't blessed with the natural raw physical ability that Kouandjio exudes. I wouldn't bet on Kouandjio being the starting left tackle this season, mind you, but the mere fact that we are already finding ways to get him reps with the first-team unit indicates that is living up to the enormous hype that he generated as a prep recruit.
In other quick hitters, Undra Billingsley and Ryan Kelly were both absent again today. There has been no update on Billingsley, but Kelly was confirmed to be suffering from a concussion. Trent Richardson could handle kickoff return duties again this season, but Saban mentioned that they were trying to develop other options, which probably means the staff has learned its lesson the hard way after both Richardson and Julio Jones were injured on kickoff returns a year ago. Punting woes continue to draw the ire of Saban. DeAndrew White continues to receive the praises of just about everyone, coaches and players alike.
Alabama returns to the practice fields for the ninth session of fall camp tomorrow afternoon.