Fall camp commenced with full pads and contact for the first time this afternoon in Tuscaloosa. Fall practice usually starts at a slow pace, but with five practice sessions in the books and hitting becoming the new normal, things will begin to come more quickly in the days and weeks ahead. The first scrimmage of fall camp will come this Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and after that the non-existent depth chart and key position battles will quickly start to fall in place.
For the time being, though, the bulk of the attention continues to be focused on the eligibility status of Duron Carter, who unfortunately remains in academic limbo. There is no final decision regarding his eligibility, nor is there a timetable for when a decision may come. Fortunately, a cause for optimism came this afternoon from Nick Saban, who was quoted with the following, as referenced by the Tuscaloosa News:
"The issue is, school at these places was out about the same time we started. So to get grades posted and transcripts is the issue. That's what we're waiting for. We don't know that there are any issues, but we've got to get the information so that he can be admitted, so that he can practice. We've got lots of people working on it."
Based on what was said today it seems that Carter has completed the coursework he needs and that the hold-up is indeed administrative in nature. Take that as a big sigh of relief because if there are any substantive deficiencies in his academic background then it is far too late for him to cure those deficiencies and still play this fall, while on the other hand administrative misunderstandings can be cleared in due time between now and the season opener against Kent State. Hopefully Carter will be cleared in the near future, but there are no guarantees and in any event the missed practice time will come at a great cost even if he is cleared in the coming days.
In other news, both Undra Billingsley and true freshman offensive lineman Ryan Kelly missed practice today. Billingsley has actually been undergoing some tests at DCH after being hospitalized last night, and while nothing specific has been mentioned regarding his ailment we obviously all hope it is nothing serious. Hopefully it's just something to the effect of a passing, non-contagious stomach bug that will go away shortly, and in the meantime best wishes go out to Billingsley.
Fortunately, whatever kept Kelly out of practice today does not look anywhere near as concerning. Kelly missed practice today with some sort of an unidentified ailment, but Saban said afterward that he was listed as day-to-day so whatever ails Kelly is apparently not serious.
True freshman offensive line Isaac Luatua was sporting a heavy club-style wrapping on his hand today, protecting an injury which was presumably sustained sometime in practice yesterday afternoon. That injury won't help Luatua get on the field this season, but realistically he is widely expected to redshirt regardless. Arie Kouandjio returned to the practice fields this afternoon after missing the media viewing period yesterday with a left knee injury, but he is listed as day-to-day. We'll keep an eye on him and see if he returns for the upcoming scrimmage this Saturday.
Meanwhile, William Ming was spotted for the second straight day taking reps at Jack linebacker. The redshirt sophomore was a defensive end coming out of Athens High School and spent his first two and a half years at defensive end at Alabama, but realistically he was buried on the depth chart and only saw action a year ago against Georgia State (when everyone outside of the water boy saw playing time). The roster has him listed at 283 pounds, and given the fact that he wasn't considered overly athletic in the first place it's a bit hard to see this one working out well. Anthony Orr seems to be doing well in the transition from defensive end to Jack, but the move of Ming looks more like a shot in the dark move in hopes of getting some value out of him. This one may stick just because he was making no real progress at defensive end, but in general I would expect his time at Jack to be little more than a brief cameo. He was buried on the depth chart at defensive end, now he would be buried on the depth chart at Jack, and given that he's probably more of a natural fit at end I imagine he will make his way back there in due time.
In other quick hitters, Dre Kirkpatrick received some praise today from Nick Saban for the development of his maturity and work ethic over the past year. Christion Jones continues to take snaps at tailback, and that could be a move that sticks for the time being with a solid showing this upcoming Saturday. Dee Hart may be able to practice by November, but while Saban didn't rule out him as possibly playing sometime later this season, I'd personally put the likelihood of that happening in the snowball's-chance-in-hell category. Nick Gentry continues to receive praise from his fellow teammates, and while he'll almost certainly be a situational player in 2011, he'll likely have a role on this team similar to what he had a year ago.
'Bama returns to the practice fields tomorrow afternoon for the sixth practice session of fall camp.