"Losing Antwan for a couple of days allowed me to get my younger guys a few more reps," Defensive Ends Coach Paul Randolph said. "You always hope that you won't have to play them, but you want to get them ready just in case.
"All the young guys have progressed very well."
Antwan Odom and Nautyn McKay-Loescher are still slated to start. Nothing has changed in that regard. But Odom's forced "vacation" had the benefit of providing all the work backup Mark Anderson could ask for.
Randolph explained, "It ended up giving Mark a lot of reps--probably more than what you'd want in camp. Remember that he was moved to the position late in spring (from outside linebacker), which meant Mark didn't have that many reps. He's more than made up for it this fall."
A tough athlete unafraid of contact, Anderson is also tall and fast. To prepare for his new position, this summer he added almost 10 pounds of muscle. "Mark put on weight this summer, which is good; that will help him," Randolph said. "He doesn't look like he lost any speed, which is a big plus. I think he's enjoying carrying the extra weight at defensive end, although it hurts him when he's running wind sprints.
"He enjoys throwing his weight around a little more."
Senior Leslie Williams entered fall second on the depth chart. He's been nursing a sore shoulder recently, which also allowed more reps for younger players.
True freshman Wallace Gilberry (6-2, 239) was a star in Monday's scrimmage, totaling four tackles and two quarterback sacks. "I like Wallace," Randolph said. "Once he learns how to use his hands... That's the main thing all young guys don't do well. They struggle using their hands as defensive linemen. Once Wallace learns to use his hands and gets comfortable in our scheme, he's going to have a bright future.
"I'm pleased with his outlook. He's always smiling. He's pleasant. He enjoys the game."
At 6-4, 231, Keith Saunders is a tad light for defensive end. But Randolph says he's more than tough enough. "Keith surprised me. He came in and is progressing at the same pace as Wallace, if not a little faster."
Gilberry looks thicker than Saunders, but their respective strengths belie their appearance. Randolph explained, "One pass rushes a little better (Gilberry), and one plays the run a little bit better (Saunders). We'd like to get both of them about even. Of course we've got time to do that.
"I'm pleased with both of them. I think they're going to be good for us in the future."
Veteran walk-ons Jonathan Brunson and P.J. Fletcher were both included on the 105 early-reporting roster. Both are also working at defensive end.
He's paying his own way to attend school at Alabama, but true freshman Justin Johnson (6-2, 248) has comparable talent to Saunders and Gilberry. Randolph likes what he's seen from the Tuscaloosa native.
"Justin is huge," Randolph said. "He's a big man. He's very powerful, but we've got to get him a little quicker. We've got to get him more explosive and get his quick-twitch muscle fibers going. But Justin possesses more strength than the other two. He's going to be fine, once he brings his level up to the college game."