Bama Scrimmage Shows Improvement

Alabama had its second scrimmage and 12th of 15 spring practice days Saturday and Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said he saw "dramatic improvement." That is not to say that he was completely pleased, but it was a dramatic statement.



Alabama was in Bryant-Denny Stadium for a two-hour, 140-play scrimmage and once again the most impressive statistical performance was turned in by senior quarterback Blake Sims.

"I think the focus this past week was to analyze the things we did in the last scrimmage," Saban said. "That's how you set goals for yourself. The things that you didn't do well, to emphasize those things, so that you can improve in those areas. I think in some of those areas I saw dramatic improvement.

"Overall, there are still a lot of things we need to work on. We need to take advantage of these last couple practices. There are a lot of guys getting a lot of reps and opportunities to improve and learn. I still think our team has got to develop the mental toughness, the psychological disposition to sustain better, finish things better, play harder and be a more relentless competitor. I like the attitude of our team, but I still think there are guys that need to improve in that area, and if we are going to improve as a team, in the difficult times, that's when we have to be able to execute and do things well."

Regarding the areas of "dramatic improvement," Saban said, "I thought the twos actually played better today on defense. I think we probably tackled a little bit better today on defense. I think we probably stopped the run a little bit better today on defense.

"I think offensively we were probably a little more efficient throwing the ball." He pointed out that there may not have been a big change in the number of passing yards as in the first scrimmage because "two big plays blow all those stats up."

Saban didn't see everything as good. "But I also think the one thing that we weren't as consistent in our execution at times on either side of the ball with the first teams," he said. "I think when we watch the film we're going to see that a lot of the plays that got made or didn't get made were really due to a lack of execution, not necessarily the other team doing something special. That's what you really want to eliminate."

The Crimson Tide will have Sunday and Monday off before returning to practice on Tuesday, and Saban said that is a good thing."It's a good thing we will not practice until Tuesday," he said. "We are starting to get -- not anybody hurt; we didn't lose anybody today that's not going to be able to practice on Tuesday. But we're getting dinged up enough that two days rest will do 10 times more good than one day. Maybe we can get a little more recovery with some of these guys they can finish the spring strong and we can make the improvements we would like to make."

The Tide will practice Tuesday and Thursday and will conclude spring drills with the A-Day Game next Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The scrimmage will begin at 1 p.m. CDT. There is no admission charge.

We need to take advantage these last couple practices," Saban said. "There are a lot of guys getting a lot of reps, getting a lot of opportunities to improve and learn. I still think our team has to develop the mental toughness, the psychological disposition to sustain better, finish things better, play harder, be a more relentless competitor. I like the attitude of our team, but I still think there are guys that need to improve in that area. If we are going to improve as a team, in the difficult times, finishing the game, fourth quarter, things get difficult, you get tired, that's when we have to execute and do things well. So you know there's a lot for us to work on."

Senior quarterback Blake Sims led the offense with 288 yards while completing 61.5 percent of his passes (24 of 39) and three touchdowns. Altee Tenpenny led the rushing attack with 39 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown while Tyren Jones added 34 yards on 10 attempts.

Junior Amari Cooper turned in another big day with a scrimmage-high nine receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Chris Black added six grabs for 89 yards while Christion Jones, Robert Foster and Ardarius Stewart all added touchdown catches.

Senior Trey DePriest led the defense with six tackles while adding a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Junior college transfer Jarran Reed pitched in with five stops, a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup. Jarrick Williams and A'Shawn Robinson both had four tackles and a TFL.

Saban said, "Offensively today, we didn't run the ball effectively as I would like. We made some plays on the passing game. Blake made some plays in the passing game, Coop had another big day. But there were a couple more guys, Christion Jones had a couple-three catches and a touchdown. A couple other guys getting three-four catches out there.

"We had a lot more passes completed. I would like to see us make more explosive plays, which I think they will come, but they come because we can effectively run the ball with more consistency than what we doing right now.

"The scrimmage was a little the opposite it was last week. The offensive was really good in the move the field situations. When we did the specialty type stuff, when it was third down, red area or whatever, the defense was pretty good. It was the opposite today. The offense was better in the situational stuff and the defense was better when we were moving the field. I don't know what all that means. We have to learn how to play a complete game whatever the circumstances is. We have to compete and play a complete game."

The big question going into spring practice – and one that Saban has repeatedly said will not be answered this spring – is quarterback. Even though Blake Sims will face continued competition from current Bama quarterbacks and from incoming transfer Jacob Coker in the fall, Sims seems to have made a big move this spring.

Saban said, "I think Blake has shown a lot of command out there. Blake made probably three or four plays with his feet scrambling, and then making a play throwing the ball. I know there were several third-down situations today where the front guys couldn't get him on the ground, get him tagged, and he ended up scrambling around and made a play about three or four times. He's doing a better job in the pocket. He's been very accurate and his consistency has been good. So we're pleased with Blake.

"I think all the other guys, they have their good days and their bad days. I think they all need to work on their consistency. Cooper (Bateman) has probably got the most reps of any of the other guys and he's done some good things. But his consistency is what he really needs to work on.

There wasn't any question about upcoming junior wide receiver Amari Cooper. Saban was asked about Cooper and said, "The guy's really explosive. He's got great speed, he's got really good hands, he's got good size. He can catch the ball vertically down the field. He's difficult to cover coming out of a break. He's good against press (coverage), so he's a pretty hard guy to stop unless you put two guys on him. We don't really scheme ourselves, either side of the ball offense or defense. We're just trying to do what we do and execute both ways. So he gets some matchups out there that are pretty hard to handle."

Saban was asked about the cornerbacks with the absence of Eddie Jackson, who will miss the spring after undergoing surgery for an ACL tear. He said that Maurice Smith also missed the scrimmage with a concussion. "I think he'll be okay. Probably would have been okay today but we're being a little cautious with some of those things. I think that's the right thing for us to do.

But it's given Tony Brown a ton of reps. Bradley Sylve has been getting a ton of reps. Anthony Averett gets a lot more reps now because we actually had two corners down for two practices. Those guys have been doing a good job. I think they're making steady improvement. I think fundamentally, they got themselves in trouble a couple of times today, but it'll be a good learning experience for them."

As for the outside linebackers, Saban said the "guys are doing well. Dillon Lee has actually been playing in and out, because we're a little bit short inside, especially if Reuben (Foster) can't go; he went about half the time today. But Xzavier Dickson has been doing a good job, Denzel (Devall) has been doing a good job. Ryan Anderson has made steady improvement, Tim Williams has made steady improvement. Those guys have all done a pretty good job. And because they're all pretty good rushers, that's been helpful to us as well. Reggie (Ragland) has done some rushing at times, too, and he's helped us with that. D.J. Pettway's a good rusher. So probably a little bit more athletic up front on defense than maybe we were a year ago, that may be helpful on some of these spread teams that we have to play if we can stay healthy."

As for the defensive line, Saban said, "They're improving but we're still not striking up front, playing as physical, converting pass rush, getting the kind of execution that we need doing the little things right especially when we're doing stunts and pressures. So I like the way they're working and they made improvement, but I think there's certainly a lot more that we can look for in terms of the expectation that we have for what they can do as to where they are right now and we're going to keep pushing and make them work for it

The Tide coach said Grant Hill is playing right tackle and center "and doing a good job in both regards. I think he would be an outstanding center if we played him at that position. And I think he would develop into a good tackle if we play him into that position. But for right now he right have to do a little bit of both. When we get the other guys in here in the fall, maybe a couple other guys that can contribute at certain positions and do something, maybe that won't be required. That will certainly be probably a little easier for him. But getting this experience at both of these positions this spring is invaluable for his versatility and future. When you have that kind of versatility, you've got so many more multiples where you can become and develop to be a starter in the future."

SCRIMMAGE STATISTICAL LEADERS

(Stats include 11-on-11, situational drills, red area, goalline, 2-minute)

PASSING LEADERS

Blake Sims – 24 for 39, 288 yards, 3 TD

Cooper Bateman – 16 for 31, 160 yards, 2 TD

Alec Morris – 4 for 7, 90 yards, 1 TD

RUSHING LEADERS

Altee Tenpenney – 15 rushes, 39 yards, 1 TD

Tyren Jones – 10 rushes, 34 yards

Kenyan Drake – 4 rushes, 19 yards

RECEIVING LEADERS

Amari Cooper – 9 rec., 97 yards, 1 TD

Chris Black – 6 rec., 89 yards

ArDarius Stewart – 2 rec., 66 yards, 1 TD

Kenyan Drake – 2 rec., 55 yards, 1 TD

O.J. Howard – 3 rec., 38 yards

Robert Foster – 4 rec., 34 yards, 1 TD

Malcolm Faciane – 4 rec., 29 yards

Parker Barrineau – 2 rec., 27 yards

Jalston Fowler – 1 rec., 21 yards

Christion Jones – 3 rec., 18 yards, 1 TD

DEFENSIVE LEADERS

Trey DePriest – 6 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF

Jarran Reed – 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU

Jarrick Williams – 4 tackles, 1 TFL

A'Shawn Robinson – 4 tackles, 1 TFL

Xzavier Dickson – 3 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

SCORING

Passing Touchdowns (6): Blake Sims – 3 (4, 18, 6 yards); Cooper Bateman – 2 (48, 3 yards); Alec Morris – 1 (65 yards)

Rushing Touchdowns (2): Derrick Henry – 1 (2 yards); Altee Tenpenny (3 yards)

Defensive Touchdowns (1): Cyrus Jones – 1 (35 yard fumble return)

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