Alabama Coach Nick Saban took the team to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday and the afternoon was almost all rain. In fact, there was also a little lightning, enough to take the team off the field for 40 minutes.
Saban said that the weather “really wasn’t that bad,” but did say it affected the passing game, in part because of some dropped balls. “We knew we were going to have some problems with the weather today.”
Saban said the scrimmage started with “really good intensity. Thing were going really well. I really thought we had some tempo, expecially early on offense. I thought we ran the ball really effectively.”
And then came the lightning delay.
Saban said he elected to have the scrimmage at the stadium in part to work on administration insofar as play-calling from the press box. That would not have been possible had the practice moved to the indoor facility.
Saban didn’t even wait for the first question about the quarterbacks. Nor did he identify them, although it is assumed that the “two” he mentioned are senior Blake Sims and junior Jake Coker.
“I thought both quarterbacks did a good job,” he said.
Saban, however, elected to withhold passing statistics from the scrimmage because he didn’t think it would provide a fair assessment. He said weather conditions affected the passing game, including drops by the receivers.
Statistics from the scrimmage, the coach said, are “not the most important thing to us. I think we have a lot of things that we did very well out there today.
“I thought all three of our backs did very well. Receivers made plays.”
Junior Kenyan Drake led the Tide offense in both rushing and receiving with six carries for 88 yards and a touchdown and four receptions for 65 yards. Junior T.J. Yeldon accounted for 35 yards on four rushes, redshirt freshman Tyren Jones 14 carries for 30 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore Derrick Henry 6 rushes for 23 yards and a touchdown..
Redshirt freshman Robert Foster had two receptions for 57 yards, followed closely by junior Amari Cooper, who finished with four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. Senior Christion Jones added two catches for 45 yards and a score, while redshirt freshman Ardarius Stewart had three receptions for 33 yards.
Saban said, “Defensively, we have a long way to go. I think we missed a lot of tackles. We had a lot of young players that are getting a lot of opportunities because of the players that we have out.” Among the defensive men missing practice are pre-season All-Southeastern Conference end A'Shawn Robinson and inside linebacker Trey DePriest. Also not yet working are defensive end Jarran Reed and nose tackle Brandon Ivory, both returning from suspension. Dalvin Tomlinson, who has drawn good reviews after missing last year with an injury, was held out of the scrimmage after he was injured when someone stepped on his toe in Friday’s practice.
“The good par” about the injuries, Saban said, “is some of the freshmen players who may be able to help us are getting lots of turns, lots of reps.”
He said that it goes with the territory that those young players make “a few more mistakes.” That gives them an opportunity to learn, the coach said.
In Saturday’s scrimmage, Jonathan Allen posted a scrimmage-best five tackles, including two sacks. He was followed by junior Dillon Lee with four tackles, freshman Da’Shawn Hand with four tackles and a sack, sophomore Reuben Foster with three tackles and a sack and junior Reggie Ragland with three tackles.
Saban said, “I was really pleased with the kicking game part of it today.” He said punter J.K. Scott punted well and that placekicker Adam Griffith was 4-5 on field goals. The coach said the one miss came when he didn’t have his regular holder in the game, and he also said Griffith did a good job kicking off.
“There’s a lot we need to improve on,” Saban said. “We’ve got a long way to go in terms of developing a team. The players have to understand why good teams win. And they’ve got to be willing to do the things to develop the habits that are going to make them successful on a consistent basis. That’s what we’re going to continue to try to work on over this next week.”
Alabama is working towards its season-opening game against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Aug. 30.