What’s the best news about Alabama returning starters having to miss all or part of spring practice as they recuperate from injuries? The best news is that it’s in the spring, not in football season. Another bit of good news is that while these Crimson Tide players are sidelined, other Bama players will be getting additional practice time.
Alabama’s football team had its first day of spring practice March 11, then took time off for The University’s spring break. The Crimson Tide returns to the practice field Monday for its second day of work.
Alabama will practice only three days this week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban explained that the one day of work prior to spring break was because of Easter falling during practice time and him wanting to give the players the Saturday off before Easter, which is next Sunday.
The biggest news from the first day of practice before the break was that a number of players would miss all or part of spring work as they recuperate from injuries and/or post-2015 surgeries. The injured include three returning starters – safety Eddie Jackson, defensive end Jonathan Allen, and offensive tackle Cam Robinson.
We have discussed the situation at safety.
Bama lost two starting defensive linemen, but only one true defensive end. When the Tide started its three best defensive linemen, A’Shawn Robinson was playing as a tackle. Allen, a 6-3, 283-pound senior, and Jarran Reed were ends. Robinson and Reed are headed to the NFL, probably as first round draft choices. Da’Ron Payne had a few starts at nose tackle as a true freshman last year, and should be No. 1 at that spot starting this spring (when – we know – there is no real depth chart).
Several men should get valuable snaps at the two end spots in the absence of Allen. Dalvin Tomlinson, a 6-3, 294-pound senior, was a regular last year on the defensive front and seems likely to be in the rotation this season, either as a starter or back-up.
Da’Shawn Hand, a 6-4, 273-pound junior, was considered by many to be the nation’s top prospect a few years ago. He hasn’t been disappointing at Alabama. He’s just been behind very good players. But Hand was used frequently last year, particularly in pass situations, and should again be a regular this year. Extra repititions in the spring can’t help but be good for him.
Johnny Dwight, a 6-3, 308-pound junior, is athletic enough to have spent time working at tight end, but he’s going to be at defensive end in the spring.
Bama will also work two men who were in the 2015 signing class, but who are freshmen defensive ends, this spring. They are Anfernee Jennings, 6-3, 235, who was redshirted, and Christian Bell, 6-4, 240, who had to complete some academic work and entered The University for the spring semester.
The situation is similar regarding Cam Robinson, a 6-6, 326-pound junior left tackle. Although Alabama lost a starting offensive tackle, it was right tackle Dominick Jackson. The Tide brought in a junior college star, Charles Baldwin (6-6, 305), ostensibly to play right tackle, but JC transfers don’t always work out immediately.
Last year the Tide worked Korren Kirven, a former defensive lineman, at left tackle and he’s back at that spot this spring. He’s a 6-4, 300-pound senior. Lester Cotton, a 6-4, 315-pound sophomore, was a high school guard, but Saban has said that he thinks Cotton can be a tackle.
In addition to Baldwin, other tackle candidates in the spring are Matt Womack, a 6-7, 315-pound redshirt freshman, and Jonah Williams, a 6-5, 280-pound January enrollee freshman.
Brandon Greene, a 6-5, 300-pound senior, has worn two numbers over the years, No. 89 when he plays tight end, and No. 58 when he plays right tackle. His position coach will have excellent perspective to make the determination to play Greene at both spots or just one. Mario Cristobal has moved from coaching centers, guards, and tackles, to coaching offensive tackles and tight ends.
The Tide will have 15 total practices in the spring, including scrimmages at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 2 and April 9. The final practice day will be the one practice open to the public, the A-Day Game at 2 p.m. CDT on Saturday, April 16.