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Jumbo Package: Early returns positive on rebuilt defense

Wrapping up the A-Day scrimmage and other Crimson Tide notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama A-Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday everyone. As bad as last weekend was for the spring sports, this one was even worse. The baseball team didn’t show up against Auburn, the softball team dropped both games to Tennessee on Saturday, and the Gym Tide failed to make the Super Six for the first time in a decade. But hey, football!

Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman Award Chris Allen, Kedrick James, Phidarian Mathis, LaBryan Ray, Jedrick Wills

Bart Starr Most Improved Player AwardDeonte Brown, Johnny Dwight, Brian Robinson Jr., Saivion Smith, Quinnen Williams

Mal Moore Leadership Award Shyheim Carter, Hale Hentges, Ross Pierschbacher

Some important names on those improved lists, including a bunch of DL. Ray, Allen, and Williams all showed flashes of brilliance, hopefully providing an answer to one of the big questions of the spring. Of course, big #99 was not a question.

“We had our couple scrimmages over the spring and it was crazy because I was looking at it and our D-line was playing like ‘Wow,’” linebacker Dylan Moses said. “They were stopping the run every time. It was like something like I’ve seen all the past years of us with our D-line, so I feel like we’re going to do great this season.”

Davis, the Tide’s 6-foot-7, 310-pound star junior defensive end, appears to be on track for a potentially big season.

By all accounts, the 2017 first-team All-SEC selection looked unblockable at times during those first two scrimmages. That was the case again on Saturday.

Raekwon Davis is going to be one of the keys this season as he inherits a leadership role. Neither offense could run the ball much on Saturday, which is of course good news and bad news.

That awards list did leave out the one for best dressed. Ryan Anderson won it going away.

That’s just outstanding. Tony Brown was hoping to be in contention, but it just didn’t happen for him.

I got no words.

Damien Harris called this response to Taulia’s commitment “the tweet of the year” thus far.

Better get used to this. I’m sure that Tua’s punny name is going to make for samoa jokes.

OK, let’s talk about the QBs.

The backup quarterback earned MVP honors while leading the Crimson Team to a 24-12 win on A-Day. Jones went 23-for-35 passing for 289 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while playing with the second team offense against the second team defense. Kicker Joseph Bulovas shared MVP honors with Jones.

But it is also fair to point out, even when given time, Hurts threw the ball behind numerous receivers, or wide and out of their reach. Even his best play, a 59-yard completion to DeVonta Smith that kept Hurts’ statistical line from looking far worse than it finally did, was short of the target and required an excellent adjustment by Smith to make the catch.

Other deep balls were either too far or not far enough. Nick Saban, who was cautious not to criticize Hurts in the post-game, saying he was “not disappointed” in Hurt’s performance, admitted “even Jalen would tell you he could have done better on some things.”

“All the years I was there, coach Saban walked by me, shook my hand. He always said the same thing to me. He said, ‘Tony, AJ works harder than anybody. He improves daily. He tries to make his teammates better. He does everything we ask him to do. That was all I needed to hear.”

We asked Tony McCarron if he had any advice for Averion Hurts.

So, like always, he gave his opinion.

”If he asked me for advice, keep your private business private,” he said.

That’s great advice from Tony McCarron, but the damage was done. Then, of course, this happened.

Joey Galloway followed that up with commentary on how a 28 yard scramble can be seen as a negative when the staff is trying to work on passing the football. Of course, after the game Saban said that he wasn’t disappointed in Jalen’s play.

I think it was somewhat telling that Jones never got in with the ones. Last year, when Tua was clearly outshining Jalen, Saban put him in against the ones, ostensibly to protect Jalen by showing everyone that Tua would struggle as well against that group. In fact, the younger QBs have received A-Day reps with the ones for the past several seasons. This season he seemed content to let the results speak for themselves, particularly with Mac Jones getting Co-MVP honors.

It may mean nothing, but I found it interesting.

The first team secondary looked solid.

“Trevon had a really good spring,” Saban said. “Xavier McKinney had a really good spring. Deionte was solid in the two games that he played [last season] and he was solid this spring. Saivion made a lot of improvement. I still think he’s not quite sure on what he’s doing all the time, but the fact that he was here this semester and this spring probably was a really good thing for him. Shyheim Carter made a lot of progress.

“So, these guys made a lot of progress. Jared Mayden made a lot of progress and did a nice job. Now, he played with the twos today, but he’s played with the ones some.”

There is plenty of talent, particularly when the summer enrollees get here. Hopefully they continue to jell.

Last but not least, another piece about The Process.

“I mean, it’s like you make an A on a test and you say, ‘I can take it easy for two weeks and make a C on the next test and have a B average.’ That’s normal,” he says. “It’s special for somebody to make an A on the test and say, ‘I’m going to try to make the highest grade ever in the class.’ That’s not normal. But yet, that’s what you have to try to promote from a mindset standpoint to the people in your organization.”

Nothing about five-of-the-last-nine is normal, Coach.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.