Alabama had its first scrimmage of fall camp at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, a scrimmage that had some early rain. The biggest question regards the most important position on the field, and Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban had a lot to say about the candidates, although he emphasized the “decision is far from getting made.”
Alabama did not make any statistics available, but insofar as quarterback play is concerned in scrimmage work that has been situation normal for a few years.
Alabama will scrimmage again next Saturday. The Crimson Tide opens the season in three weeks, Sept. 3, against Southern Cal in Arlington, Texas.
Saban also said that the quarterback competition was primarily among three candidates – junior Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, and freshman Jalen Hurts. Sophomore David Cornwell is still nursing a summer foot injury and is limited in the repetitions he has been given.
The plan Saturday was that the three candidates “all had an equal opportunity with each group,” Saban said. “I think it sort of gave us a good idea who might be most ready to manage the team, but I think that decision is far from getting made” based on his scrimmage observation.
He said, “But, I’ll watch the film and sort of see, get a better feeling for how many balls got dropped and did they throw it in the right place all the time. How did they execute? What was their decision-making? How did they manage the team? What was their leadership like? How did the team function when they were in there. I think when we watch the film we’ll get a little better feel for that.
“I think all three guys did some really good things. I think all three guys would tell you if you asked them that question that there were things that they could have done better and that there were also decisions that they made that they’d like to have back. The key to the drill is how can we minimize those because when I talk about playing winning football and taking care of the football, that’s part of it, especially at the quarterback position when you’re distributing the ball every play. I actually think that there wasn’t a whole lot of poor decisions made that I would say ‘Wow, that was really, really bad.’ But I think the consistency and efficiency would have been a little better at times if we had made better choices.
“I can’t say the early rain probably made it a little more difficult for the quarterbacks. The balls got wet, probably affected their passing a little bit. But I think when it cleared back up we were a lot more effective.”
Saban was asked specifically about Hurts. The coach said, “Jalen is a very talented guy and I thought he did some really good things out there today. I think he does really good things each and every day. I think the key for both younger guys (Hurts and Barnett) is consistency in performance, taking care of the ball, and taking what the defense gives and being satisfied with that.
“ think that all three guys have done a good job of not looking over their shoulder in terms of what the other guy is doing and trying to focus on what they need to do to improve and get better. So, we’re encouraged by the progress. We’re not satisfied with where we are but we are certainly hopeful that we can get all three of these guys really to play well enough to play for us to give us the best chance to win.”
Another key area of interest is the injury situation following a scrimmage. Saban indicated there were mostly injuries that do not appear to be serious.
“(Defensive end) Dalvin Tomlinson twisted his ankle a little bit,” Saban said. “He’ll probably be out for a few of days. It’s hard to tell about those things at first look. Da’Shawn Hand didn’t scrimmage, but I think he’ll be okay probably by Monday. A couple other guys got little, small, light concussions. But we’ll go through the concussion protocol with them. I’m not sure that any of them are really, really serious. But we’re going to take every precaution before they get back. Hopefully that won’t be long.”
In discussion of the running backs, Saban said “Bo (Scarbrough) looked good early, got a little dinged so he didn't practice as much or have as many carries, probably. The young guys, I think, all did a pretty decent job. I think that we're very encouraged by what they've been able to do daily in practice, and I feel like those guys can certainly be contributors for us. B.J. (Emmons) is a very naturally instinctive guy, really works hard, has got a lot to learn, but he is working hard at it and has done a really good job so far. Damien Harris, I think, has done a pretty good job so far. We just gotta keep working those guys, and I think they're all going to make a contribution to the team this year.”
He added, “We’ve got to be able to run the ball with a little more consistency. We had probably too many penalties out there, the first time we had a full crew of officials, which is a good thing that we can learn from.”
Saban was asked about the right side of the offensive line. He said, “I can say that from practice, Jonah Williams has done a really, really good job. He’s gotten a little bigger. He’s gotten a little stronger. He’s smart. He’s confident. Bradley Bozeman and Shank (Alphonse Taylor) both have played at right guard and we’ve also looked at other combinations of players in these various positions. So I’m pleased with the progress, not satisfied but certainly think that it’s a better, more healthy, more depth situation than we had a year ago.”
Regarding defensive line depth, Saban said, “We feel really good about the three defensive ends -- Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson and Da'Shawn Hand. They've all played before, they've all been productive players.
“But it's past that. Dakota Ball has shown some progress. This is the natural position that he played. We moved him to tight end a year ago because we had depth problems there. I think he can help us some.
“Then I think there's the three new guys that came in we're working with and they're making significant improvement. I think, probably, after the next scrimmage, we'll have to decide, 'Okay, which one of these guys are we going to invest our time in?' But it's difficult for me, again, to assess that today.
“I think Josh Frazier has made some improvement. He's played some nose and some five technique. And O.J. Smith has made some improvement at the nose guard position, so there are guys making improvement. I think that is an area where we really, really need to get some of these young guys to improve.”
Overall, Saban said, that the scrimmage was the “12th or 13th practice without a day off and with a couple of two-a-days thrown in there, so you’ve got a tired team. You’ve got a lot of guys learning a lot of new things and if I was going to give an overall assessment, I’d say the first teams executed fairly well. And I think after that, we have a lot of guys that really need to work hard on having a better feeling about the expectation of the kind of effort, the kind of toughness, the kind of responsibility you have to have to actually know how to do your job on a consistent basis and do it enough that you have confidence in what you’re supposed to do, how you’re supposed to do it, they way it needs to get done so that you have the best chance to be successful. So we’re a work in progress when it comes to that.
“We’re going to watch this film and we’re going to see a lot of things that we need to improve on. I think the good news is this is an indication of where we are, gives us a much better barometer of things we need to improve on to get better – each guy individually as well as each unit as well as our team. We had some guys that did really, really well out there today.
“So, what we need to do is get the good players playing really, really well. We’ve got to get the younger players and the backup players to play with a lot more consistency so they can develop a role on this team so that we have more guys that can go in there and contribute and play winning football. That’s the key to the drill. Right now we probably don’t have enough guys that fit into that category, but we certainly feel like we’ve got some guys that are capable, we just got to do a good job of trying to develop them and getting them where they need to be by the first game.”