McCarron Hits Scrimmage Passes

AJ McCarron completed three touchdown passes, field goal kickers were on target, and Alabama defensive backs intercepted three passes as highlights of the Crimson Tide's first scrimmage on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama had a two-hour, 120-play practice that Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban called "a regular game."

The Bama coach said, "I thought the overall intensity and tempo of the offense is something we need to pick up a bit past the first team. The rest was a little sloppy at times in terms of communication."

Junior quarterback A.J. McCarron completed 25-of-43 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns and suffered one interception. He found Christion Jones twice on scoring strikes of eight and 22 yards while connecting with Kenny Bell on a scrimmage-long 44-yard scoring play.

McCarron's one interception was a big one for the defense. Junior college transfer Deion Belue picked it off at the three-yard line and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.

That was one of two interceptions returned for touchdowns by the Bama defense. Vinnie Sunseri, who was the game's leading tackler with five, one of them for lost yardage, ran one back for 38 yards and a touchdown. He also had a pass break up. Belue, Adrian Hubbard and Dee Milliner both made four tackles with Hubbard recording a sack and two pass breakups while Milliner added an interception. C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson both recorded three stops and Johnson had a blocked field goal. Linebacker Trey DePriest had two tackles and an interception, safety Robert Lester two tackles and a pass broken up.

That was the only way to stop the field goal kickers. Jeremy Shelley was good on four-of-four, two from 38 yards, one from 33, and one from 18. Cade Foster was good on three-of-four, making from 44, 27, and 17. The one that was blocked was a 54-yard try.

Cody Mandell punted nine times for a 42.6 yards per kick average with a long of 51.

Christion Jones was the leading receiver with seven receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Kenny Bell had three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, Kevin Norwood four catches for 50 yards, Nathan McAlister 5-51, Marvin Shinn 5-40 with an 11-yard touchdown from Phillip Ely, Amari Cooper 2-40, and Michael Williams 3-37.

The statistics came from the scrimmage, and also from situational drills, including red area, goalline, and two-minute.

Redshirt freshman Dee Hart was the leading rusher with 13 carries for 32 yards and a touchdown. Walk-on Ben Howell had eight runs for 31 yards. Jalston Fowler rushed 10 times for 27 yards and a touchown. True freshman T.J. Yeldon also had 27 yards, on seven carries.

No wonder Saban was asked if the scrimmage emphasized passing more than rushing.

"This is our offense," Saban said. "This is what we do. We tried to run. We didn't run it very well. I don't know if that was the defense stopping the run pretty good or if we can't run. If we were running it, I'd say we weren't very good on defense.

"I was pleased with the defense. They made some interceptions and big plays.

"We made some big plays on offense as well." He said that McCarron had played well.

Saban said that back-up quarterback Phillip Sims was hampered by a shoulder injury.

"I think that everybody should understand that Phillip Sims has a very sore shoulder," Saban said. "There's nothing structurally wrong with it. It'd be the equivalent of having bursitis in your shoulder. We gave him a shot to try to enhance the healing. So he really couldn't throw the ball today. So we wanted to limit his reps so that he got some work, but yet probably really couldn't throw the ball 25 yards down the field. We gave him some turns out there where he got game-like situations – get the signal, call the plays, run the offense – but he was just limited in what he could do.

"Prior to getting this, he was doing extremely well and we were pleased with the progress that he was made. He was competing really well. This is something that bothered him at the end of the season. He kind of got over it a little bit. And then when we started spring practice, after three or four days, it sort of flared back up on him. So we've been trying to manage it."

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