Happy Monday, everyone. The Tide held its annual Fan Day event yesterday, complete with an open practice inside Bryant-Denny.
It was certainly hot out there. We'll start with some observations:
— Blake Barnett with probably the best throw of the day. Rolling left, he threw a touchdown of around 40 yards in the corner of the the end zone to Trevon Diggs. Went right over the outstretched hand of Tony Brown. Perfectly placed ball.
— Freshman running back B.J. Emmons is a physical runner. Has been lowering his shoulder and initiating a lot of contact in light contact drills.
— A couple nice balls from Cooper Bateman — a nicely placed fade route to Gehrig Dieter and then a deep completion of around 30 yards to O.J. Howard on a corner route. Bateman then threw a long touchdown pass to a wide open Irvin Smith. It was a blown coverage.
--- Although it was not a full-contact, that didn’t stop Emmons from blowing up defensive back Tony Brown on a run. Brown has been seeing time at safety during practice.
--- Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart were the first two return men during kickoff drills.
--- On the sidelines, there were some creative play-call cards. One sign featured the emoji of two women tap dancing, while another featured the purple devil emoji.
Those emoji cards have Kiffin's fingerprints all over them.
On the quarterbacks, it seemed to be something of a consensus among the beat writers that Jalen Hurts looked like the best of the bunch, with Blake Barnett a close second. Cooper Bateman apparently looked fine, but didn't quite stand out like the other two. It's very early yet, and Bateman is obviously the veteran of the group, but maybe there is a reason that he isn't standing out.
Bateman was obviously recruited while Doug Nussmeier was here, and was listed as a pro-style QB by the services in spite of his excellent speed. Indeed, if you check out his high school highlights, he was running what looks to be a pure Air Raid style where he used his mobility to keep plays alive and push the ball down the field. These are coveted skills in a QB. However, as we saw against Ole Miss, Bateman seemed to struggle with the mesh-point read when asked to execute zone read concepts.
Conversely, when you look at tape of Kiffin recruits Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts, you see the basic IZR and inverted veer plays featured prominently. Both guys look to be very adept at putting the ball into the belly of a RB and making a quick read, and neither has a problem ripping it out when appropriate and taking off. This type of system requires the defense to commit a man to the QB, essentially forcing more single coverage outside. They came to Alabama accustomed to running Kiffin's favored RPOs and needing only to adjust to the speed of the game.
Last season, Bateman was supposed to be the dual threat guy in a competition that was about differing styles as much as competing trigger men. In hindsight, it may well be that Bateman lost because he simply wasn't effective running the style he was assigned to run, and in fact may have been more suited for the run heavy, drop-back style we saw down the stretch.
It will be interesting to see how it plays out, and if last season taught us anything it's that the front-runner can change with the wind, but an Alabama offense with all of these weapons plus a QB who is capable of making quick reads on the fly, and beating you with his arm or his legs, doesn't seem fair.
There were a couple of surprises. First, that Ridley was in fact returning kickoffs. While he would probably be great at it, you rarely see a team put its top playmakers at risk in that fashion. Secondly, it was true freshman Jared Mayden, and not Anthony Averett or Kendall Sheffield, starting outside in nickel packages. That battle will be something to watch. Fellow freshman B.J. Emmons received all-around praise for a reckless, fast, powerful running style that he is known for, at one point crashing into Tony Brown, who was seen playing free safety, in what was supposed to be a limited contact practice.
On the offensive line:
1st-team OL:— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) August 7, 2016
LT- Cam Robinson
LG- Lester Cotton
C- Ross Pierschbacher
RG- Bradley Bozeman
RT- Jonah Williams
Outside of possibly putting Alphonse Taylor at RG, the rest of this is likely the starting OL we'll see vs USC https://t.co/SOSOZbouwV— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) August 7, 2016
It appears that four-fifths of the OL is settled, which is a good sign. They will now have all of camp to jell and there are several strong candidates at RG. One still has to believe that Alphonse "Shank" Taylor has a great chance to get his job back at some point. Speaking of Shank, remember that he goes about 345 as you watch him block a true freshman DL:
Raekwon Davis V Shank pic.twitter.com/rvjCnZ4C6q— B. Stone (@bstone_22) August 7, 2016
Yes, you read that correctly. That is Raekwon Davis, a true freshman, making Shank look small as he drives him backwards. This young man is going to be a handful and then some.
However, if Kiffin is known for producing anything on the field, it’s wide receivers. The offensive coordinator helped Amari Cooper win the Biletnikoff Award in 2014, as the former Tide receiver set single-season school records in receptions (124) receiving yards (1,727) and receiving touchdowns (16).
This past season receiver Calvin Ridley proved to be the latest star to blossom under Kiffin, tallying 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 receptions in his freshman season.
"He’s a great play caller," Ridley said. "He get’s the best players the ball in great situations, so he’s doing really great with that. I like him."
Kiffin has certainly developed some talent at the receiver spot, and so far this preseason he can't seem to say enough about Robert Foster. Foster reportedly looked outstanding yesterday. Stay tuned.
Alabama fans enjoyed the annual Fan Day open practice and autograph opportunity Sunday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama practiced for two hours with the fans watching from any shade they could find on a sweltering, hot day then the players and coaches took 45 minutes to greet fans and sign autographs. See the photos in the gallery above.
Nice gallery if you are so inclined.
The Under Armour All-American visited Alabama in mid-July, but the increased interest in the Crimson Tide started a few weeks before that visit. Wills got a chance to spend a week with 5-star offensive tackle commit Alex Leatherwood, who has been recruiting Wills hard.
Shaw and Wills have talked extensively about Alabama, and it's clear the nation's No. 9 offensive tackle is liking the Tide.
"Who wouldn't want to go be a part of a program like that?"
Watson totaled 47 touchdowns last year (35 passing, 12 rushing). The FBS record is 63 by Hawaii's Colt Brennan in 2006. To put 60 in perspective, Cam Newton "only" totaled 50 in 2010 during his once-in-a-generation Heisman Trophy season at Auburn. When Florida went all out for Tim Tebow to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007, he totaled 55 touchdowns. Most recently, Oregon's Marcus Mariota had 57 in 2014 as the Heisman winner. Is Watson capable of sniffing 60? Yes. But as Newton, Tebow and Mariota showed, that's a hell of a high bar to reach.
You see the headline, feel free to read Solomon's take on that. On Watson: a player that good, who plays on a team with a suspect secondary that may struggle to protect leads, playing in a conference that is devoid of defense, and whose SEC rival is back in the dumps? Yeah, he might hit 60.
On Sunday, the Bills signed linebackers Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne. Spikes is a five-year NFL veteran who did not play last season. Hawthorne is an eight-year veteran, spending his first four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and the past four with the New Orleans Saints. One of the players released by the Bills to make room for their additions was Arenas. Buffalo signed Arenas in February as a possible punt returner and reserve defensive back.
Well, this whole thing just stinks on ice.
Lastly, this video of a Saban impersonator pitching for an Anniston car dealership has gone viral. Reader thedeuce actually posted an abbreviated version in the Fanshots a few days ago, but this is the full version. The fellow does a pretty nice job.
That's about it for today. Have a great week.