Happy Monday, everyone. It was a nasty, rainy weekend in Tuscaloosa, which forced the football team indoors for practice and the softball to team play a Sunday doubleheader. Unsurprisingly, Saban kicked the beat reporters out of the building after a very short viewing period, but there were some observations.
Perhaps the player who has impressed the most is offensive tackle Matt Womack. The 6-foot-7, 326-pound tackle has been working at right tackle with the first offensive line group and physically looks the part. Womack, a former three-star recruit, flew under the radar this offseason, as not many projected him to fill the opening at tackle. However, after appearing in nine games last season, his experience seems to be paying off early this spring.
The running backs group is easily visible when the team works indoors. It was the first chance to see true freshman running back Najee Harris up close, and he is as billed. He is well built for a freshman, particularly the lower body, from which the power is derived for a running back. The group went through drills in the following order: Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough (black jersey), Josh Jacobs, Brian Robinson (who got an earful from running backs coach Burton Burns at one point) and Harris. B.J. Emmons also wore a black jersey.
Alabama’s sideline was full of onlookers, including a number of recruits who were visiting. Among those seen at the Alabama football complex before practice was 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.
After working with the running backs earlier in the week, early enrollee Chadarius Townsend was with the wide receivers on Saturday.
Trevon Diggs was again going through drills with the cornerbacks. He’s been splitting time with the wide receivers. During one drill in front of reporters, he was paired with Shyheim Carter.
Have to admit, Womack was a guy I had somewhat written off amid reports that Scott Lashley was standing out at bowl practice and appeared primed for a bigger role. It’s still very early, but the behemoth Womack is leading the pack at RT thus far. Also, according to Suttles, Geno Matias-Smith has joined the coaching staff in some sort of intern role.
The result? Payne bench-pressed 545 pounds and squatted 635 pounds despite being 10 pounds lighter than this time last year.
So, Payne is still freakishly strong, even as he continues to drop weight.
The rising star from Birmingham, who was 350 pounds as a senior in high school, is down to 312 or 313 pounds. Coaches want him at 308.
Payne is going to be a monster this year. Enjoy him, folks, ‘cause he gone after the season.
Kiffin did a smart job of concealing some of Hurts’ deficiencies throwing down the field and built in very few concepts that required him to get the ball out on time and in rhythm. In essence, he built a system that was designed to look complex to the defense, but was very basic for his own offense — a pretty clever combination that generated 1-on-1 matchups for the Tide’s superior athletes.
Daboll is different. He attacks through formations, play designs, and has always emphasized rhythm within his structure.
It’s going to be an interesting dichotomy through spring. Will Daboll shift his system more towards Hurts — who’s a special playmaker — or will he expect the sophomore to make big strides as a passer and fit into his offense?
On Hand, the writer offers a nice breakdown of the areas in which he needs to improve, chiefly his “get-off” while also developing a secondary move for his powerful bull rush.
One of the key reasons that Hurts was able to succeed as a true freshman was that he was asked to do many of the same things he had done in high school. The passing offense we saw last season was mostly a “one read then take off” program. Seth Galina highlighted this well for you yesterday in the “RPO” section, on a play where Jalen took a sack having never even looked at a wide open Calvin Ridley, the outside receiver in a very basic “double slants” pattern.
It will certainly be interesting to see what Daboll does with the offense. We saw the quarterbacks taking seven step drops from under center on day one of spring practice, something Hurts didn’t do at all in high school, which could be a simple experiment or a harbinger of the 2017 offensive strategy. What do you think: Could Jalen be successful in a classic dropback scheme?
Speaking of offense, if you’re on Twitter and don’t follow Cole Cubelic, you should. He does an outstanding job explaining the fundamentals of line play through video study. Here, he shows a perfectly executed combo block on one side, but not so much on the other:
A look at double teams along offensive line in the run game. Why staying square & working together is CRITICAL. Small mistakes are costly!! pic.twitter.com/v6ydQmkcyS— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) March 23, 2017
I noticed this several times last season. Bozeman had a solid season overall, but several negative plays were created when he moved to the next level before ensuring that his partner had the DT secured, as shown here. This is a critical concept in the basic gap blocking scheme that Daboll has favored in his career.
Because of his lineage, he has already received some buzz and press from recruiting websites and regional news outlets, but, in truth, he's still an unknown quantity as a quarterback. He played mostly junior varsity football last season for Mountain Brook, and transferred to Hewitt to play for a coach who specializes in teaching quarterbacks.
He hasn't received a scholarship offer yet, and, despite recruiting trips throughout the Southeast and now Notre Dame, his main focus is simply growing with his new team and helping Hewitt-Trussville reach the playoffs.
This is a key: Tyson has zero offers right now and hasn’t played a down as a varsity starting QB in high school. If he shows himself to be a top flight passer, you can bet that Saban will be all over it.
"He likes that I can run a little bit," Jones said. "I can throw like a pocket passer and how they had Jalen Hurts last year (freshman quarterback who won SEC Offensive Player of the Year), I can be kind of similar to that.
"He was saying he wanted to get me back up there again and get to know him better."
While Jones said the Alabama offer was very exciting, he also maintained that he's "solid with Ohio State and really strong with them right now."
Quarterback is a concern in the 2018 class. This is somewhat mitigated by Alabama’s youth at the position, but you typically want at least four scholarship passers on the roster.
Howard did enough during the pre-draft buildup to help himself move into the top 10 of a lot of mock drafts. For Howard’s sake, you’d prefer for him to go to a team with a better quarterback situation than the Jets. Still, look for Howard to have a great career in the pros.
Howard has rocketed up draft boards as former teammate Tim Williams has slid.
King, who transferred to Alabama from Memphis after the 2015 season, is expected to graduate from UA this spring and would be immediately eligible as a fifth-year graduate transfer at a new school next season. He played in just seven games last season before being diagnosed with a lung infection, averaging 3.3 points per game. He did not play in any of Alabama’s SEC games.
Austin, a sophomore from Montgomery, played in just six games last season, averaging 1.4 points per game.
Good luck to King and Austin, who simply were unable to carve out a role in Tuscaloosa. With the incoming talent they are probably better served elsewhere.
Next up, Alabama hosts Kent State (10-15) on Tuesday, March 28 at 6 p.m. CT before hitting the road for a three-game series at Missouri (18-13, 1-4 SEC) in Columbia, Mo., starting on Friday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. CT. Game two of the series, set for a 3 p.m. CT start on Saturday, April 1, will air live on the SEC Network.
While the Tide won two of three, the 14-0 loss in game two was the biggest in program history and the most runs ever allowed at Rhoads Stadium. Thankfully the ladies bounced back in the rubber match.
"We just missed so many looks over and over again," said Alabama head coach Kristy Curry. "Credit Georgia Tech. I thought they shot the ball extremely well from a lot of different people. It was one of those days where we couldn't make shots. It's 17-17 after the first and 17-17 after the third. We outscore them by seven in the fourth. It's that second quarter that jumped up and caught up with us. We have a lot to build on, a lot to be proud of and a lot to move forward with in the future."
It was a successful finish to the season for Coach Curry’s squad. Hopefully they can carry this momentum into next season.
That’s about it for today. Have a great week.