Look Back At Tide Offense In A-Day

It's been two months since the Alabama nation convened at Bryant-Denny Stadium to both further celebrate a 14th national championship and to get a preview of the team they hope will bring home Number 15. In this second annual two-part series reviewing that intra-squad skirmish, part one will focus on the offense.

Before turning on the DVR and making notes on the fly, it's appropriate to answer a question that is asked almost daily amongst the Alabama fan base: What changes will new offensive coordinator Rick Nussmeier make in the Crimson Tide attack?

The answer: Not many, if any. What Jim McElwain ran en route to two national titles and 48 wins in four years is the Nick Saban NFL offense. Sure, "Coach Nuss" may add a few tweaks, but you'll have to be mighty sharp to pick them out. As a guy named Paul Bryant used to say, "Dance with the one that brung you." And Nussmeier will do just that.

To the DVR we go, and let me say that watching a game back on tape is MUCH different than seeing it in person in the press box and taking notes at the same time. You tend to pick things up the second time around you didn't see at all in real time. So here goes:

The first offense, clad in crimson, came out throwing and redshirt junior A.J. McCarron threw deep looking for Kenny Bell on the opening play. Problem: Bell was doubled by John Fulton and Robert Lester, and the latter came down with a pick, one of three by McCarron on the afternoon.

Speaking of quarterbacks, I did not notice until the replay that my State Farm agent, former Tide signal-caller David Smith, was one of the referees at A-Day.

With Phillip Sims' departure, redshirt freshman Phillip Ely is the back-up quarterback. He saw quality time at A-Day, and while not dazzling, was much-improved. He can make most if not all the throws needed in the Tide offense, and also showed an ability to scramble that most outside his native Florida were not aware of. He laid a pass out on a fade that was about an inch from being a great connection to DeAndrew White, but White was jammed just enough at the line to not get there. Ely is better than most think.

McCarron began developing chemistry with Kevin Norwood as a go-to receiver back in New Orleans, and that continued all spring. At A-Day, he also seemed to be getting in sync with Christion Jones, who made a nice grab on a crossing route near the end of the first quarter. Kenny Bell just keeps getting better.

Of the new guys, I expect true freshman Amari Cooper to make the quickest impact. Sources say he began to embrace the thick play book his first day on campus in January, and has picked up the offense quickly.

Current Virginia quarterback Sims guided the second-team offense, which wore white, and on his first play Sims gave fans a preview of what could be the future of the H-back position. He hit redshirt freshman Brent Calloway, a converted linebacker, for a short gain. While Harrison Jones and Brian Vogler are more experienced (in practice) playing H-back, Calloway impressed onlookers all spring with the way he picked up the position. Being a former running back doesn't hurt here.

I enjoy watching big Jalston Fowler move the pile as much as the next guy, but the brusing back is also a talented receiver with soft and consistent hands. He showed that in the first half with a diving grab.

And then you have T.J. Yeldon, who was named the game's MVP. Yeldon took a handoff and ran around right end avoiding several tackles to pick up a first down for the White team early in the second quarter. That play, and the dazzling catch-and-run he converted into a long touchdown later, should serve as previews to what Tide fans and opponents can expect from last year's high school Mr. Football in the state of Alabama. Yes, Eddie Lacy is the starter, but Yeldon will play a huge role in the 2012 Alabama running back rotation. Fans should be thanking Assistant Coach Jeremy Pruitt for the job he did in turning the former Auburn commitment.

Dee Hart appeared to still be battling the knee injury that felled him last summer, but is coming along, and his quickness will be utilized at times in the ‘Bama backfield.

Yeldon and Lacy will run behind an experienced offensive line, but one which has a sophomore starting for the first time at the key left tackle spot. With the move of Barrett Jones to center, young Cyrus Kouandjio stepped in and stepped up. He will be tasked with protecting McCarron's blind side, and Cyrus looks up to the task. Jones is still adapting to center, but made much progress in 15 practices and will make much more before the Michigan game. Jones got to continue battling against Jesse Williams, who moved inside to nose guard from end, and the two continue to make each other better players.

One guy who does not get a ton of ink is guard Chance Warmack, who is quietly playing himself into an NFL draft pick, and not a late-rounder. Warmack has improved every year in Tuscaloosa, and is now recognized as one of the top guards in the land. He had a solid spring capped by a good A-Day. The top backup is steady Austin Shepherd, who has made himself into a legit SEC lineman.

In tomorrow's second part of the series, I will discuss defense and special teams.

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