Spring football is finally back, and most fans with whom I interact are more than excited to start a new season, myself included.
Your malevolent leader Erik asked me to step in and write a little about my observations from the closed scrimmage this past Saturday, so I was less than happy to oblige because no one likes that guy, but you, the readers, are more than deserving of my limited knowledge and experience.
I attended the scrimmage, sitting about 5 rows up from the endzone, and carried a notebook to record my thoughts, as well as any pertinent information the Dark Lord himself shared in the meeting afterwards. I assume you’re all waiting to see Quarterback assessment, but my ego prevents me from acquiescing too soon, and defense wins championships (sometimes).
Laurence Jones (Hootie) and Maurice Smith worked with the 1s at safety, with Eddie Jackson coaching them up from the sidelines in a black jersey. They both handled themselves capably, with Minkah Fitzpatrick transitioning nicely to the outside opposite Marlon Humphrey. Anthony Averett played seemed to be the 5th guy in the mix, and was picked on frequently, but held his own, and had a sure interception in the endzone from Bateman that Cam Sims broke up as they fell to the ground. Saban said that for a guy who never played DB in high school, he’s made quite a bit of progress this spring.
Harrison played quite a bit as well, but I but none of the younger guys appeared to be far enough along quite yet to warrant meaningful snaps outside of special teams work.
The unit as a whole had a fine day, with Reuben Foster anchoring the unit and Hamilton playing base sets and rotating with Evans in nickel packages. Saban stressed that Reggie Ragland’s presence in nickel will be missed, necessitating the move of Evans, who has never played inside.
Ryan Anderson played very well, using his experience to call the alignments for the defensive line as an outside rusher. Tim Williams was placed in a few obvious rushing situations, and did well enough shedding blocks to put himself in positions to make plays. Christian Miller had quite a few "wow!" hits with the 2s.
It really didn’t matter which set was playing, the defensive line dominated all strings of offensive lines. Dalvin Tomlinson played well in all phases, and worked as a nice bookend to Hand, who certainly looks physically ready to take over games. Frazier played well, but the offensive schemes being run rarely allowed for interior linemen to have much of an impact. Hand played quite a bit with Allen out for the spring, and certainly passes the eye test physically.
This was a mishmash of players at unfamiliar positions, and Saban admitted as much post-scrimmage. By his admission, UA as quality depth at tackle, but is thin as guard. As such, they’re experimenting with converting one of their tackles to guard. That can be a difficult task, as the play develops much quicker than it does at tackle.
Saban said Lester Cotton had earned a starting spot somewhere on the line, and Jonah Williams had the talent to start as a freshman as well.
Williams had a good scrimmage, and played quite a bit, but he’s obviously a freshman both mentally and physically. A summer with Cochran will do him well. He’ll be battling Korren Kirven, who also had a solid day all thing considered, as I believe he may be playing on a hurt foot.
As with Allen and Jackson, UA is missing another unit leader this spring with Cameron Robinson sidelined. Because of the fluidity, I wouldn’t read much from this. It’s not like we’re opening against Utah.
The bright spot on the line is Ross Piersbacher. He looked comfortable at center, and Saban even admitted he’d had a great spring transitioning, no trouble with the snaps, and may be a better natural position for him.
Casher took some snaps with the 2s, and a few of us noticed Brandon Kennedy at RG, giving a good push, keeping his hands inside.
Ridley caught the first pass of the scrimmage, the second play from Bateman, for 30 yards on a beautiful double move in single coverage. He’s still a freak, but I found it interesting that later they experimented with him in the slot with Charlot and Stewart on the outside. He was targeted there as well.
Stewart got his fair share of targets, and Robert Foster looked remarkably smooth running routes, despite his black jersey designation. He and Bateman appeared to have a rapport, as Bateman looked to him often and pulled him aside after one particular miscommunication to explain what he expected on said route. With the 2s, Cam Sims seemed to be the go-to guy, as well as showcasing his blocking skills in the running game on a few plays.
Derrick Kief had a few nice catches down the seam. OJ Howard was involved in the plan, but dropped two balls that hit him square in the mitts, one on the 2 yard line for a sure TD.
We saw a lot of Derrick Gore because we can’t risk injury in the spring to Bo Scarbrough or Damien Harris. Harris got the first play of the scrimmage off left tackle, but still appears tentative as an inside runner hitting the holes with determination. He did have a few good extra yardage plays with dump off passes. Saban said he’s had a better spring than last fall.
BoScar scored 3 TDs, one of them a 96-yarder where he should have been tackled at the 2, but brushed it off, bounced off the right side and turned it up. He’s maybe 8 pounds lighter than Henry, but hits his top end speed in half the distance. Saban said he needs to work on confidence, but the skillset when healthy is unrivaled. We’ll need to "use some of the new guys to fill depth," – Dark Lord
I could probably make an entire post about this position and y’all would still want more.
Bateman started, led an efficient drive, resulting in a TD. Cornwell next, then Barnett, then Hurts. Saban admitted he didn’t allow any of them to get into rhythms, instead crafting situations to see how each would respond/what they could do. Despite the starting order, playing time was inversely proportional. We saw far more Hurts than Bateman.
Cooper Bateman: clearly has the best understanding currently of the concepts and execution of the offense. Also appeared to be coaching up other positions of his expectations on plays. Limited by his arm strength compared to others, but has natural athleticism and decent decision-making. He was the only QB not to throw an INT (thanks Cam Sims), but also had the best footwork and poise. Wasn’t exceptional, but demonstrated he could run the plays and take care of the ball, if not a game-changer.
David Cornwell: Saban says he’s the best pure passer. I can see that in the delivery, but he had an off day. His accuracy was all over the place, and his INT to Burger—Becker was a beautiful throw to a DB with no receiver in sight. He lacks mobility, but his arm alone allows him to stretch the field vertically like none of the rest can. Has plenty of time to improve and challenge for the starting spot.
Blake Barnett: He’s gained weight, but he still needs more time with Cochran. That aside, he played quite a bit, and at times, the inherent talent was obvious. His scrambling ability and innovativeness unavoidably invokes Manziel comparisons, but the decision-making and consistency are far from copacetic. He threw 3 terrible INTs, 2 of which were return by Foster and Fitz for touchdowns. His footwork was sloppy on those plays, and he was trying to force throws into impossible windows. Sorry, Gumps, if that scrimmage was any indication, he’s got work to do.
Jalen Hurts: He played more than the others, and wow that guys has got some wheels. He’s quick, elusive, and a nightmare for linebackers, but he’s still incredibly raw. His accuracy leaves a whole helluva lot to be desired, but I was encouraged seeing him looking downfield for receivers when rolling out of a collapsing pocket instead of automatically tucking and running. He and Barnett competing next year will be incredibly fun to watch. Random Observations Again, this was the first spring scrimmage.
Please don’t read too much into what you’ve seen here, as so much can change between now and August. This was more of a talent evaluation than anything, and I can firmly say Bama has the most talented team in the country. Leadership is always key, and unfortunately, Bama is missing 3 of its top leaders on the field right now in Robinson, Allen, and Jackson.
Saban recognizes this and is hoping/challenging Foster and Stewart to embrace leadership roles both vocally and by example in practice. As fans, he asks that we maintain the level of excitement and enthusiasm. "Tradition is always under construction," he told us. We have to show up for A-Day and cheer our asses off to combat the enthusiasm from other schools around the conference with new coaches/videoboards/hyped recruits.
Also, Griffith missed his first extra point, and JK Scott fumbled his first punt snap. #LongLiveBobbyWilliams
Ed. Note: The Tide has its second scrimmage this Saturday.