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Jumbo Package: Spring Practice Begins and Saban is Ornery

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In other words, it’s business as usual in Tuscaloosa.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl-South Practice Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Gump Day, everyone. It was a fine day in Tuscaloosa yesterday: sunny and warm, the baseball team won and the football team opened spring camp. As usual, the beat writers all basically saw the same things with a couple of unique notes and then broke down a 16-minute Saban press conference into 20 different headlines, but we have the summary for you:

The key nuggets:

  • Saban was sure to reiterate that the team has no depth chart, only a “rep chart.”
  • Jonah Williams was working at left tackle, Lester Cotton at right guard. No word on who led reps at right tackle.
  • Minkah Fitzpatrick was working with the corners while Ronnie Harrison and Hootie Jones were leading reps at safety. This is an interesting development that will reduce the camp competition to one opening at the “money” dime-back position if it sticks. The Tide will have the luxury of one of the most experienced secondaries in the country this season.
  • Bo Scarbrough, Shaun Dion Hamilton, and B.J. Emmons are all practicing in black no-contact jerseys and Saban seems confident that all are recovering on schedule. CB Jared Mayden had a hip issue that required surgery and is also in a black shirt.
  • Trevon Diggs was working with the secondary, though Saban’s comments would suggest that he is seen as more of an offensive player that they want to have available at safety for emergencies.
  • Ben Davis was working at OLB, which is probably a good sign for him. Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton are expected to dominate the ILB spots with veteran reserves Joshua McMillon and Keith Holcombe in the mix as well, so the “sam” linebacker spot will likely be the best path to playing time. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Mack Wilson and freshman Dylan Moses work outside some as well, though both were working inside yesterday.

Al.com has some QB footage for you. It’s focused on the highly anticipated first reps of Tua Tagovailoa but has some throws from all three scholarship passers:

The biggest takeaway from the video is what the quarterbacks are practicing: taking straight drops from under center and throwing from the pocket. This was an element of the offense that was virtually non-existent last year as the Tide spent most of the season in the shotgun and pistol.

As far as the new passers go, Tua certainly throws a nice looking ball with some zip on it. Mac Jones looks an awful lot like a young McCarron in build and seems mechanically sound. Like AJ, he will probably need a redshirt year to add some strength before he can be counted on.

Saban flatly stated that Hurts is the starter and that the team needs Tua and Mac to develop into quality backups, which at this point is the mentality that the coaching staff should have. If one of the two young passers is to overtake the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year, he will have to unseat him by out-playing him by a fair margin throughout camp while winning the trust of the team.

Saban also went on his first rant of the spring, lambasting some poor reporter who dared speculate that the Daboll hiring indicates a change to a ball control style of offense, accusing him of “making shit up and throwing it against the wall” before wandering into the weeds on an apparent new NCAA rule proposal stating that high school coaches can no longer work college camps and into the current American political system that rewards those who scream the loudest rather than those with the best ideas. Classic Saban.

Full video of the presser:

Other stuff:

Incoming freshman SG John Petty was named Alabama’s Gatorade High School Player of the Year:

The 6-foot-6, 185-pound senior shooting guard led the Jaguars to a 34-4 record and the Class 5A state championship earlier this month. The state’s returning Gatorade Player of the Year (as a standout for now-closed J.O. Johnson High), Petty averaged 21.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks this past season. Petty was named the MVP of the state tournament after collecting 22 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in the championship-game victory over Faith Academy. The state’s Mr. Basketball as a junior and a four-time First Team All-State selection, he concluded his prep basketball career with 2,749 points.

Petty has volunteered locally as part of multiple community-service initiatives through his church. “John Petty can play most any position,” said Danny Petty, head coach of James Clemens High. “And with his size, he is almost impossible to guard.”

Petty has maintained a B average in the classroom.

Petty reminds many of former Tide standout Levi Randolph, who was similarly rated out of high school and part of a top ten class that delivered Alabama’s most recent NCAA appearance before falling apart via attrition. Like Levi, he is known as a fine student and contributor to his community in addition to having supreme talent on the basketball court.

Calipari has recruited well in Alabama, snagging LeFlore's DeMarcus Cousins and Parker's Eric Bledsoe, both of whom remain in the NBA.

Also this spring, Trendon Watford has decided to play with Nike Team Florida out of Fort Lauderdale in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. He plans to extend his 3-point range and improve on defense.

Calipari, meanwhile, is coaching in the NCAA Tournament. On Sunday, Kentucky, seeded No. 2 in the South region, held on late to beat Wichita State 65-62. The Wildcats are aiming for their ninth national championship, and first since 2012.

Speaking of Petty, hopefully he can help recruit young Trendon, who will be one of the top recruits in the 2019 class.

The prospect’s family had just celebrated New Year’s Eve together with Plaintiff Antonio Carter and his family just a few weeks earlier,” the lawsuit states. “It is believed that this relationship between Plaintiff Antonio Carter and the coveted prospect was known to the coaches and defendants at the time he was hired.”

Kiffin’s coaching staff already has come under significant fire for including assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who is mentioned in a lawsuit filed against Baylor following its sexual assault scandal. Two assistant coaches arrived from Ole Miss, which is being investigated by the NCAA, and defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Eric Mathies was arrested in 2014 on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence.

Well, it appears that Lane is off to a roaring start in Boca.

That should do you for today. Gump early and often, my friends.

Roll Tide.