With Nick Saban causing the collective fanbase to have a near heart attack, which shortly thereafter gave way to unbridled euphoria, the Alabama football team took to the practice fields yesterday afternoon for the sixth of fifteen spring practice sessions and the third practice session in the past four days. The first scrimmage is now just around the corner, and by this point spring practice is in full swing in Tuscaloosa.
For what it's worth, though, Saban wasn't too pleased with the effort yesterday. Money quote comes from Cecil Hurt:
We had the poor me's at practice today. I told the guys that I'd call Michigan and see if they take days off and if they do, then I'll do it. But if not, we'll keep on keeping on.
Having said that, however, Nick Saban being unhappy after practice isn't exactly a shocking development. To the contrary, it's a fairly common emotion for him, especially this time of year, and effort complaints notwithstanding things have seemingly been going well enough. The players have clearly dedicated themselves in Scott Cochran's winter strength and conditioning program, as is evident by their impressive physiques, and to date Alabama has avoided any serious, long-term injuries.
Perhaps the biggest development to date has been the apparent move of Jesse Williams on the defensive line. The Australian product was a standout player for the Tide a year ago playing the combo end-tackle position, but with Josh Chapman having graduated Williams has been taking reps this spring at nose guard. Many thought that is where he would play when he arrived last January, and by all accounts it looks like he'll get his chance this fall.
Keep in mind that moving Williams to nose guard would also create an opening at defensive end, and to that end the race is seemingly wide open to fill that vacancy. Rising senior Quinton Dial is arguably the smart money choice, though Jeoffrey Pagan and redshirt freshman LaMichael Fanning, who at 6'7 and 300+ pounds is one of the most physically imposing players on the roster, could easily end up with significant playing time and a meaningful shot at the starting job.
Blake Sims continues to be held out from practice with the hip injury he sustained in a pick-up basketball game over spring break, and now it seems clear that he will miss the majority of spring practice. It's possible that he could be withheld from contact all spring, and clearly he is making no further progress at tailback while watching from the sidelines. If his misses the remainder of spring practice, it would be no great surprise to see him moved elsewhere come early August.
Duron Carter remains absent from practice, and any rumblings of his return to the team late last week have clearly petered out in the meantime. The melodrama, of course, remains, as evident by the circus surrounding his removal from the online roster at RollTide.com yesterday afternoon. In reality, though, Carter has not been listed on the official spring roster circulated to the media all spring and there has been no change in his official status. As was the case in the last spring update, the odds are low we ever see him on the field in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Rising redshirt junior Tana Patrick may be finally making his move in Tuscaloosa. The heralded recruit out of North Jackson High School has had an unexpectedly quiet career to date, but with Dont'a Hightower and Chris Jordan having moved on Patrick has gotten increased reps at inside linebacker this spring. A starting job seems very unlikely given the presence of C.J. Mosley, Nico Johnson, and Trey Depriest, but at least it seems like Patrick is finally starting to reach the point where he can be a meaningful contributor on defense.
The Sam linebacker position remains open, and somewhat alarmingly the name of Jonathon Atchison has barely been mentioned all spring. The hot name at Sam this spring, in fact, has been Adrian Hubbard. He's taken snaps at both Jack and Sam, and with Xzavier Dickson likely being the starting Jack linebacker this fall given his superior size and ability to hold up against tight ends and offensive tackles in the running game, the thinking seems to be that Hubbard will switch back and forth between the outside linebacker spots as the situation dictates. Clearly he has the quickness and the athleticism to rush the passer, and at roughly 240 pounds he could hold up well enough in run defense at Sam. The question is going to be whether or not he can turn his hips and run when dropping into pass coverage, and in all likelihood we'll have to wait and see how he plays in the A-Day game before we get any real insight there.
In other quick hitters, DeAndrew White tweaked a hamstring yesterday afternoon and may miss some time as a result. Dillon Lee certainly seems like someone who will see time as a true freshmen. Based on build alone, T.J. Yeldon just looks like a star SEC tailback. Saban praised the play of Phillip Sims in his press conference yesterday afternoon; ditto for cornerback John Fulton. Eddie Lacy and Arie Kouandjio continue to be held out as they continue to recover from ankle and knee injuries, respectively. Michael Bowman and Ronald Carswell remain suspended. Jeff Stoutland was the only UA assistant coach not to receive a raise this week, and it seems fairly obvious his omission stems not from any on-field coaching deficiencies but instead his role in the Nevin Shapiro scandal while he was an assistant at Miami.
Alabama will return to the practice fields tomorrow afternoon for the seventh session of spring practice.