Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Alabama Crimson Tide’s second scrimmage of the spring, and final scrimmage prior to A-Day, took place on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In his post scrimmage presser, Nick Saban seemed a bit more pleased with the team’s performance than he was a week ago.
It was a big day for the Alabama offense as the Crimson Tide’s banged up defense didn’t seem to have an answer for AJ McCarron and company according to the statistics that were released in the aftermath.
This scrimmage was more game-like situations as Saban promised last week. The scrimmage brought mixed results as the offense had a huge day, but the defense struggled. Here are a few notes from Saturday’s action:
It was a big day for Alabama’s quarterbacks — particularly AJ McCarron who completed 23 of his 28 passes for 319 yards and 5 touchdowns. McCarron having a good day is expected, but Blake Sims continued making his case to be the Tide’s backup quarterback. Sims has been having a strong spring thus far and that continued on Saturday as he threw for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10-for-15 passing. Alec Morris and Parker McLeod were also credited with touchdown passes in the stats.
Saban said that while all the quarterbacks played, as he promised last week, four guys saw the majority of the reps. McCarron and Sims were joined by redshirt freshman Alec Morris and true freshman Cooper Bateman. Morris and Bateman didn’t have their statistics released, but as aforementioned, Morris tossed a ten-yard touchdown.
Saban said that the running game was good and that the offensive line was effective. T.J. Yeldon led the way with 101 yards on 14 carries (7.1 YPC) and 2 touchdowns, one of which was from 65 yards out. Freshman Derrick Henry was the second leading rusher with 79 yards on 17 attempts (4.6 YPC). Kenyan Drake continued his strong spring with 71 yards on 12 rushes (5.9 YPC).
As for the backs recovering from injuries, Saban said that everyone is pleased with Jalston Fowler’s recovery to this point, but he still has a long way to go. Fowler participated in the scrimmage, but he was in a black non-contact jersey and when he ran the ball the defense had to employ two-hand touch. Saban also said that Dee Hart, who moved back to offense after spending some time working at corner, is probably closer than Fowler to getting back to contact drills. Both are recovering from serious knee injuries.
Obviously, with it being a big day for the quarterbacks, it was a big day for the wide receivers as well. In particular, it was a big day for Amari Cooper, who could very well be the best wide receiver in college football already. He is as good as they come as a sophomore. He had six receptions today, four of which went for touchdowns with a total of 108 yards. Redshirt freshman Chris Black had a big day with 10 catches for 113 yards, and Christion Jones had 72 yards on 5 catches and a touchdown.
As a whole, the offense didn’t have a single turnover, which is both a good and bad thing when you are scrimmaging against yourself. The offense didn’t commit a turnover, but the defense also didn’t force one.
It’s easy to look at the stats and pick apart the defense, but you have to consider a couple of things before you do it. One, the injuries have been harsh defensively with C.J. Mosley, Trey DePriest, Xzavier Dickson, and John Fulton all being banged up. And two, the offense is almost always ahead of the defense at this point of the spring — at least at Alabama. It was the same thing last year, and the year before, and the year before. The defense will get it together.
Saban was asked specifically about the cornerback position after today’s scrimmage, and said quite matter of factly that the unit gave up too many big plays as a whole, and that it was still a work in progress. While he did say that, he was also quick to praise Deion Belue’s improvement, and while he said that Geno Smith needed to continue improving, he has made a good bit of progress. It’s also going to help the unit when John Fulton gets back because he is one of the most experienced corners on the roster. Alabama also has a couple of guys coming in the summer who are good enough to make an instant impact.
The special teams seem to have had a better day today than they did last week even though once again no statistics were released. Saban said that Cody Mandell punted well, and that both kickers had solid days. A couple of kicks were missed according to Saban, but they were all really long attempts. The attempts that should have been made were made. Still, the kicking game is something I’m sure a lot of fans will have their eyes on at A-Day on Saturday.
Alabama has one final week of practice this spring and then the A-Day game on Saturday, April 20th will cap it off, and we will begin that long and dreary path to the August 31st season opener against Virginia Tech. The season can’t get here fast enough.
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