Barring a late development, Alabama will go into the game in excellent physical condition. One player who was injured in the Crimson Tide’s second scrimmage of fall camp, offensive tackle Korren Kirven, and a wide receiver who suffered a badly cut foot in an off-the-field accident, Parker Barrineau, have returned to practice. Nick Saban warned, though, that it may be too late for them to get enough work to be ready for Wisconsin.
Also getting that “questionable” status was wide receiver Cameron Sims, who suffered a knee injury last spring. Tailback Bo Scarbrough, continues to rehabilitate from knee surgery last spring, but Scarbrough is ineligible for Bama’s first four games in any event.
In part considering the situations regarding Barrineau and Sims and in greater part because Bama lost Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, and Christion Jones as the three starting wideouts from last year, Saban was asked about the competition at wide receiver.
The coach said, “I think Richard Mullaney has been a really good addition because of his consistency and great hands, very seasoned, veteran guy who has played a lot of football. He’s consistently made plays in practice and scrimmages. I think Ardarius Stewart has played very well. Robert Foster has made a tremendous amount of improvement. He’s a very talented guy who just has to be a little more consistent.
“I think a big thing with this group has to be to understand the importance of precision relative to working with the quarterback, whomever it might be, that they have to trust and depend that you’re going to do things a certain way so that they can deliver the ball on time. I think those three guys have done a really good job.
“Chris Black, who we expect a lot from this year was injured quite a bit of camp but now is coming back and showing some promise, and I’m sure will play. Cam Sims, who has now back been back on the practice field and is now getting better, and is getting reps and playing, we’ll see how he develops and probably make a call later in the week as to whether we can use him in this game or not.
“Then the two young players are guys who are really, really talented, Calvin Ridley and Daylon Charlot. Both those guys need to continue to improve and get to the point that they don’t play like freshmen.
“So I’d say those guys are probably the primary guys right now to play these positions. That’s an area of our team that we have to develop through the course of the year.”
Some other position questions and answers:
Regarding cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Saban said, “Marlon has done a really, really good job this fall camp, and he’s more confident on what to do and what to do it. He’s really worked hard in practice every day to improve himself. He’s been very, very competitive and we’ve been very, very pleased with where he is. Minkah Fitzpatrick has been the guy that, not to anyone’s surprise because we thought he was a really good player when we recruited him, has been able to learn, pickup and do things very, very well. I would think Minkah’s role would be more at playing star in this game and not necessarily corner, but I do think whether it’s Maurice Smith, Tony Brown, Bradley Sylve, those guys have all played corner and done a pretty good job.”
Placekicker Adam Griffith is coming back for his junior year after having been plagued with back spasms last season. Saban said, “I think anybody out there that has issues with their back knows that it just doesn't go away. But fortunately for us so far in this camp we haven't had a lot of issues with that and he has had a good camp. We're confident in him and we want him to be confident in himself. I think when he executes it the way he's capable of, he's very effective, and that's what we're trying to help him develop -- that consistency.”
On freshman tailback Damien Harris, Saban said, “Damien has done a really good job and I think he has done a good enough job that we have confidence that he can go out there and have a role in this game and play for us. He's shown a lot of toughness. He's a bright guy, so he's been able to learn his position. We're sort of counting on him being a player behind Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, and we have a lot of confidence that he can do well. He's a good receiver as well as a good runner, and he's shown that he has a lot of toughness and resiliency. We're anxious to give him an opportunity.”
On freshman nose tackle Daron Payne, Saban said, “He’s a very good player. He's very explosive, quick, can play with power and we're very pleased with the progress he's made. I think anytime you're talking about a freshaman at any position, how rapidly they can develop the knowledge and experience to do the job the way the other players expect them to do it is really important. But I think that our players respect the fact that this guy has shown a lot of ability and has an opportunity to help us as an inside player. We've been giving him a lot of reps and he may have a role in this game.”
Not relative to any specific player, Saban was asked if this year’s Bama defense was “the most prepared you’ve had to face an up-tempo offense,” and answered, “Well, it remains to be seen. That’s something that we definitely need to improve on in terms of our ability to execute on a consistent basis and not let those types of things affect us in terms of discipline, the focus, keying the right things, paying the right things, not making mental errors, being able to recognize and react the way you normally would. We’ve tried to practice it more. This group has a little more experience, especially in the number of those types of teams that we played a year ago. So hopeful that we’re going to do better, but I think they really have to go out there and do it.”