Alabama Football: What to look for during A-Day game

(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images) /

Alabama football fans always want more from A-Day than can be delivered. Still,  the performance of certain players and position groups can be illuminating.

The format of an A-Day scrimmage is not like a regular season Alabama football game. QB’s are stopped by a defender’s tag. Plays are even blown dead before a tag when an unimpeded tackler is bearing down on a QB.

Tags are also used for kick returns. When the teams are split, theoretically one side is the first team offense, playing with the second team defense. The other side is the first team defense playing with the second team offense. Every year a few players compete on both teams during the game.

There will be a winning team and a losing team. The winners get a steak meal on Monday. For the losing side, dinner will be beans.

This year is particularly difficult due to injuries. In addition, with so many of the ’18 class not arriving until summer, some position groups are short. Fielding dime defenses for two teams will be a challenge. Fully healthy running backs are no more than three players. Brian Robinson is banged up. Josh Jacobs has not recovered enough for contact. Damien Harris, who arguably does not need any spring scrimmage reps, may have to play a lot.

Still plenty to observe

Jalen and Mac Jones

The QB-tag restriction does not lend itself to many rushes for Jalen. He will mostly hand-off or pass. That could afford more opportunities to observe how he has progressed in the off-season. Mac Jones will get extended time to exhibit his skills. Mac may even get a chance to work some with the first team offense.

Inside Linebackers

Markail Benton, VanDarius Cowan and Ben Davis will be given ample snaps to showcase their development. Similar to Damien Harris, Mack Wilson might give way early allowing one of the backup ILB’s to run with the first team defense. Chris Allen who has been reported doing well this spring at OLB, might get some looks inside as well.

In the trenches

Alabama football fans want to know if anyone can block Raekwon Davis. Lester Cotten at left guard will be a player to watch. Lester can explode off the ball. In practices last season he was really the only O-lineman that could push Da’Ron Payne back without help.

Of particular interest on Saturday will be the performances of Johnny Dwight and Phil Mathis. Both will be needed to deliver key rotational roles on the Tide’s interior defensive front.

In the secondary

Can Trevon Diggs and Saivion Smith cover the first team wide receivers? The two Tide cornerbacks need to perform like starters during the A-Day game. Fans will watch carefully to see if either misses any coverage adjustments, working with the also inexperienced safeties.

The competition between Xavier McKinney, Deionte Thompson and Daniel Wright for the two safety positions will be interesting to observe. A-Day is not likely to end the competition.

The Kicking Game

The strength of Skyler DeLong’s leg will be on display Saturday. Can he come close to the high, booming punts of J.K. Scott? Graduate transfer placekicker Austin Jones has not joined the team yet. Kickoffs and field goals will be handled by Joseph Bulovas.

Bulovas is reported to have a big leg. His proficiency in making field goals will be of great interest on Saturday. In the last scrimmage, he was reported to have converted 4-for-5. Alabama football fans want to see if he really is that good or another field-goal kicking mirage.

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The A-Day game will kickoff at 1 PM. After the game, fans will be allowed on the field to interact with players and coaches.