Statistics Indicate Good Defensive Day
Alabama's second scrimmage of the fall at Bryant-Denny Stadium was affected by torrential rain. The threat of lightning forced a 30-minute interruption. Crimson Tide players got the advantage of a practice in wet conditions, but Bama Coach Nick Saban said his team didn't have the same intensity after returning to the field.
There are a number of factors that can affect offensive production. It could have been the weather. It could have been some key injuries, tailback Eddie Lacy coming out of the practice early with a slightly injured knee and freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper held out with a foot injury.
Or it could have been the defense.
There has been much talk this year that the offense might have to carry the defense for awhile because the Crimson Tide suffered such important defensive losses from last year's team. No one expects this Alabama team to have a defense like the 2011 unit that helped the Tide to the national championship. Last year's defense led the nation in every major statistical category and sent a seven guys to 2012 NFL training camps – three of them as first round draft choices.
But just maybe, the Tide has the men capable of plugging those defensive holes.
Statistics from Saturday's scrimmage (including 11-on-11, situational drills, red area, goalline, and two-minute) seemed to favor the defense. The problem with raw statistics as provided by Alabama is that they are not in any context.
Junior inside linebacker C.J. Mosley had a big day statistically with six tackles, including two tackles for loss, a sack, and – most notably – an interception that he returned 34 yards for a touchdown. Fellow inside linebacker Nico Johnson, a senior, also had five tackles, as did sophomore safety Vinnie Sunseri.
Four men who are working at outside positions – ends Damion Square, Ed Stinson, and Quinton Dial, and linebacker Xzavier Dickson – were all credited with four tackles on the day. Square and Dickson had two tackles for loss and a sack each and Stinson one tackle for loss.
The bad thing about a scrimmage is that both the offense and the defense can't look good at the same time. Also to be considered (but not known) is whether the first offense and first defense had significant time against each other, as is frequently the case in Alabama practices under Saban. the Tide coach said afterwards that he was pleased with the first team units.
A wet ball is sometimes a problem for the offense on center-quarterback exchanges, handoffs, and passes. On the other hand, the offense is considered to have the advantage on a wet field in the passing game. Saban said, though, that even in the rain the field was not slippery.
With the absences of Lacy and Cooper – Saban has mentioned Cooper throughout fall camp as doing well in the search to find new wide receivers – others had the opportunity to perform and there were some offensive surprises in the 140-play scrimmage.
Junior quarterback A.J. McCarron had a lower-than-usual completion percentage, hitting only 12 of 23 passes. He did make those good for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
Rushing statistics had freshman T.J. Yeldon with 16 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns, freshman Kenyan Drake 10 runs for 37 yards, and junior Justin Fowler – who has been working both at tailback and H-back – with 6-25.
The big surprise was at wide receiver where redshirt freshman Marvin Shinn had two catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. During the brief media viewing before the start of the scrimmage Shinn had an impressive catch in individual drills. A couple of weeks ago, in the Tide's open practice, Shinn had the catch of the day.
Alabama is replacing both wide receiver starters (Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks) from last year. One considered a favorite for one of the jobs is Kevin Norwood. Norwood, a junior, had a big game in the Tide's BCS National Championship Game victory over LSU. On Saturday he had three receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Soph DeAndrew White was two receptions for 63 yards and soph Christion Jones two catches for 46 yards.
Two running backs were also included in Alabama's list of statistical leaders in receiving. Freshman Dee Hart had five receptions for 32 yards and Fowler two catches for 31 yards.
McCarron's two touchdown pass plays went for 50 and 18 yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Phillip Ely had a completion for a 47-yard touchdown.
Yeldon's touchdown runs were from 29 and two yards out.
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