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Alabama Football Fan Day 2015 Recap

Impressions from the Crimson Tide's open practice.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from getting to watch the annual running of the Gumps (which was rather tame this year, nobody tripped, and I only saw one life-sized cardboard cut-out of Nick Saban), Fan Day also gives a couple thousand of the hardcore fans a chance to watch a practice and many of our first looks at the true freshmen.

Fortunately for you, a few brave (or dumb) souls like me went out in the sweltering heat in order to give you a quick recap of the day. As a couple of caveats, it is almost impossible to watch anything regarding offensive and defensive linemen. The practices are not full contact, so it is difficult to evaluate anything the big men do. As another, no, I don't have any more idea who the starting QB will be than you do. Without further ado, here is the wonderful list of bullet points:

  • After my questioning of Alabama's listing Xavian Marks as 5'11" 210 yesterday, I now know that is a straight up lie. The dude can't be any taller than 5'8", and weighs about as much as rat terrier. However, his speed is nothing to laugh at. The track star from Texas can REALLY move, and has a second gear that many short players don't have
  • Quarterback Alec Morris started off looking extremely sluggish throwing the ball, but may have ended the practice as the best looking passer out there. He looked exceptional in the short passing game all day, but definitely had some quacky looking deep attempts.
  • Freshman receivers Daylon Charlot, Calvin Ridley, and Deionte Thompson all look ready to make an impact this season, whether at receiver or on special teams.
  • Jabriel Washington was quietly one of the best looking defensive backs out there (and this is coming from the guy who ragged on him all offseason). He was energized and aggressive on every single rep I watched. Fellow upperclassman Maurice Smith also had a great day, and showcased some surprising physicality.
  • Eddie Jackson, on the other hand, looked lazy and non-existent for most of the practice
  • Quarterback Cooper Bateman looks to be the 5th QB on the depth chart. I've been touting Bateman as my favorite for two years, but it looks like I may have to finally let that one go. His arm is significantly weaker than the other four. He is, however, still the fastest QB on the roster.
  • Ardarius Stewart should be the top receiver this year. He's talented, athletic, and consistent. No glaring negatives to his game.
  • His partner, Robert Foster, could be even better.... He's just missing the consistency part. Foster absolutely trucked DB Tony Brown after a catch one play, sending Brown to the locker room holding his arm.
  • Transfer receiver Richard Mullaney is smooth. He's one of those guys that doesn't seem to move fast, but is open every time you look. He understands how to balance his body and all the nuances of running routes. He just needs a QB to trust him.
  • Calvin Ridley looks to be the least likely of the freshmen receivers to contribute this year. You can tell he's got all the talent, but seems to have trouble focusing on holding on to the ball and really struggles against press coverage.
  • Deionte Thompson, on the other hand, may have been the most targeted receiver of the day. His running form is still awkward, but he made quite a few acrobatic catches and was used in motion regularly. He made a leaping grab over Tony Brown on a deep bomb from Jacob Coker that drew applause from the crowd.
  • Running back Derrick Henry looks even more terrifying, and Drake seems to be moving without any issues.
  • Freshman running back Damien Harris will absolutely be the third back in rotation this year. He has the best footwork of the running backs already, and has all the moves.
  • Freshman safety Ronnie Harrison continues to stand out after a great spring. He lined up some at a linebacker/safety hybrid position like Vinnie Sunseri, and also tipped multiple passes on the day with his unnaturally long arms.
  • Freshman corners Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kendall Sheffield already look like they could play. Sheffield is amazing with his hands and pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage, even though he did struggle with double moves. Fitzpatrick was even more impressive. He was physical, broke up a few balls, was extremely vocal about play calls before snaps, and even got a significant number of snaps with the first team defense across from Cyrus Jones at one point.
  • Freshman linebacker Keaton Anderson had a rough day in pass coverage.
  • Freshman linebacker Adonis Thomas worked exclusively as a linebacker, and not as a defensive end/edge rusher. He did, however, blitz up the middle on one play and knocked behemoth lineman Matt Womack backwards almost 3 yards.
  • In no particular order, these are the players involved in kick off return duties: Kenyan Drake, Chris Black, Ardarius Stewart, Robert Foster, Derrick Henry, Calvin Ridley, Parker Barrineau, Daylon Charlot, and Damien Harris. Basically all of the top playmakers on offense are getting the chance to show their skills at kick returns. Imagine Derrick Henry running at full speed on a kick return.
  • David Cornwell had a rough day. His accuracy was scattershot and threw by far the most incompletions of the QBs.
  • The tight ends were more involved than the previous years. O.J. Howard finally had as many receptions as the fans want, and Dakota Ball, TY Flournoy-Smith, Johnny Dwight, and Hale Hentges all got the ball quite often.
  • Jake Coker continues to get the most reps with starters, but not by much. He looks lackadaisical out there and stares down his receivers for a couple of years before making a throw.
  • On the other hand, Blake Barnett appeared to be the best QB on this day. His passes had more zip than anyone out there, and his throwing motions seems to have improved since the spring. He had a beautiful 30-yard fade for a touchdown to walk-on Jonathan Rice. His best play of the day (and probably the best of any player all day), however, had him stepping into the pocket to dodge a blitz, scrambling to the right and sending a defensive lineman who was trying to catch him sprawling, and unleashing a 35-yard strike on the run over the shoulder of a decently covered receiver (I think walk-on Austin Johnson), for a touchdown. Barnett may not win the job this year, but I have little doubt he will be leading the Tide sooner rather than later.
  • J.K. Scott entertains himself by doing really weird stretches that involve rolling around. He looks like spindly pretzel.
  • Walk on junior safety Blaine Anderson got his hands on more passes and tipped balls than anyone on the field. The next Rashad Johnson?
  • All of Adam Griffith's kickoffs reached the end zone. No field goals were attempted, however.
The season is near. Roll Tide, guys.