Alabama is no exception. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said on more than one occasion that both the offense and the defense would be restricted for the A-Day game, which was played Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Opponents will have to wait until Bama opens the season Sept. 5 against Wisconsin in the Dallas Cowboys stadium to see what Tide coaches have up their sleeves.
As one who has seen decades of spring games, I have learned that the best thing I can do is pay no attention to the teams – all made up from one team, of course. Sure, I watched the quarterbacks, but not on every snap.
Instead, I focus on a player -- or even a small group of players -- for a series to see if I can judge how that man is performing.
There are many positions where Alabama will have new starters in 2015, mostly because of graduation or early entry into the NFL draft. One position in the spring has a returning starter on the roster, but outside linebacker Denzel Devall spent this spring rehabilitating after missing about half of last year’s Southeastern Conference championship season with an injury. The jack linebacker had off-season surgery and will return for fall camp in August.
The other lost starter at outside linebacker, strongside linebacker Xzavier Dickson, was a senior.
In the spring, Alabama took a look at a handful of outside linebacker candidates and several of them were impressive. Ryan Anderson, a fourth-year junior, was a regular in the rotation last year, but did not participate in the A-Day Game.
Williams, a 6-4, 230-pound junior, played sparingly and primarily on special teams as a freshman in 2013. Last year he played in 12 games and showed good pass-rushing instincts. In the A-Day game, where there were no blitzes, he was in on 5 tackles, making two tackles for losses totaling 19 yards. One of those “tackles” was a touch on the quarterback for an 11-yard sack. He also had a forced fumble and he was credited with two quarterback pressures.
Evans, a 6-3, 225-pound sophomore, played in 13 games last year and showed promise with 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and three quarterback pressures. He was particularly effective on Bama special teams. One of his two tackles in the A-Day Game was a sack and he also had a quarterback pressure.
Lee, a 6-4, 242-pound senior, was a regular on special teams as a freshman and sophomore, working his way into the linebacker rotation the past two years. This spring he worked at inside linebacker along with his outside linebacker duties. In the A-Day Game he had three tackles, two of them for lost yardage, and one sack, broke up a pass, and made a late game interception which he returned 32 yards.