Paging through the spring notebook

Opening the spring practice notebook. <br><br>Topics include a few <I>very</I> good men, players performing ‘above their pay grade,' shaking down the secondary, and fun with numbers.

Looking for a few very good men

When it comes to the offensive line, most fans fixate on last season's depth chart, asking ‘Who will fill the open slots at guard and center?' But for his part, Line Coach Bobby Connelly is considering a very different question. For him, it's all about which five linemen are his best players.

Herrion wants in that top group.

Searching for his top players, while also learning what they do best, Connelly has been juggling his lineup the past several practices. Both Matt Lomax and J.B. Closner got work at center with the first string in Saturday's scrimmage, though Closner worked with the top group in Monday's practice.

Atlas Herrion, a favorite to be included somewhere in the starting unit, is working at both guard and tackle, as is redshirt freshman Grant Dickey. Another favorite, senior Dennis Alexander, is working at guard only. Sophomore Von Ewing, who has been at tackle his first two years on campus, moves inside to guard when Dickey takes snaps at tackle.

Almost certainly last year's starters (guard Justin Smiley, and tackles Evan Mathis and Wesley Britt) will be among the starting five. But until the other two are identified, probably only Britt can be confident in his position.

Sign ‘em up!

As surely as winter follows fall, so spring practice will always be a time for underdogs to excel. But this year a few Tide walk-ons deserve special praise.

Lance Taylor is having a very good--and courageous--spring.

He's done it before, so it's no surprise that Lance Taylor is enjoying an outstanding spring practice. But this year he's doing it in pain. Sidelined earlier with an Achilles tendon strain, Taylor shrugged the injury off to battle for playing time. Fearless running routes across the middle, Taylor has again been unafraid to sacrifice his body, laying full out to haul in passes. "He made several of those catches last week limping!" Receivers Coach Eric Price said recently, shaking his head in admiration.

Most fans know that former minor league outfielder Scoop McDowell is getting a long look at receiver. And of course walk-ons Kyle Robinson and Brian Bostick are ahead in the battle for placekicker.

On the D-Line redshirt freshman J.P. Adams has looked solid at tackle, while junior end Jonathan Brunson has taken advantage of the absence of starters Antwan Odom and Nautyn McKay-Loescher.

Don't be surprised if any or all (especially the placekickers) contribute next fall.

Shaking down the secondary

Sammy Autrey is working at strong safety.

As with kickers and wideouts, the secondary always has more than its share of players in the spring, as numerous walk-ons give it their best shot. To keep things organized the unit is divided into two groups. All the scholarshipped players make up the first unit: Charlie Peprah, Anthony Madison, Charley Jones, Roman Harper, Thurman Ward, David Scott, Ramzee Robinson, Chris James, Carlos Andrews and Roberto McBride.

The second group includes Ryan Wilbanks, Bryan Kilpatrick, Danny Jordan, Corey Harris, Corbin Pardue, Ben Rose, Matt Grice and Josh Taylor.

Monday two walk-ons, redshirt freshman safety Sammy Autrey and junior cornerback Charles Hosea went through drills with the first unit. Autrey had a nice interception in Saturday's scrimmage.

Did you get that number?

Kenneth Darby

The change won't be made until the fall, but expect Kenneth Darby to sport a new jersey number next year. At one point last year Darby threatened to challenge Santonio Beard to a race--winner takes home the jersey. That race never came off, but next season he'll switch from No. 33 to 34.

By the way, it really is "Kenneth" and not "Ken."

Quarterback Brandon Avalos has been talking to his coaches about No. 7 since before he signed, and next fall he's expected to take over Sam Collins' vacated number.

On the subject of numbers, Joey Bearden has got to earn points for courage. It's difficult enough to follow a famous older brother and play the same position (Joey's a punter), but Lane Bearden's younger sibling chose No. 44 for his jersey number as well.

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