Spring Football Notebook

Working our way through the spring practice notebook, today's topics include losses and gains at tight end, dividing the D-Line talent, divying up Bama's DBs, speed kills and the Tide's numbers problem at offensive line.

Key losses equals golden opportunities

In football, injuries always equal opportunities. When frontline players go down, ready or not, their backups must step up and shoulder the load. That is especially true this spring at tight end.

Starter David Cavan (6-5, 252) is still recovering from knee surgery. He's taking part in individual drills but is being held out of all team work. Also, Mike Shula revealed Tuesday that third-string tight end Greg McLain (6-2, 244), who has been plagued by injuries throughout his Tide career, would miss all of spring after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated elbow.

Clint Johnston has performed well.

In their absence, Clint Johnston (6-4, 245) has looked very good catching the football. Completely healed from the bumps and bruises of the regular season, Johnston looks downright spry on the practice field. And his hands seem to be improved.

Walk-on Will Denniston (6-2, 217) is also trying to seize the opportunity. He runs well, and Tuesday he did a good job catching the football in traffic. Denniston is an athletic player who did a little bit of everything in high school. Till now he hasn't really found a position home in college, but injuries to other tight ends may help solve that problem.

Dividing the talent, DLs

With two full-time coaches on the defensive line, Alabama obviously divides its D-Linemen up into two units during practice. Buddy Wyatt's tackle group includes Anthony Bryant, Jeremy Clark, Dominic Lee, J.P. Adams, Rudy Griffin and Allen Long (who moved from linebacker to the line this spring).

Defensive Ends Coach Paul Randolph is working with Todd Bates, Mark Anderson, Chris Harris, Wallace Gilberry, Keith Saunders, Justin Johnson and Will Hardy.

Dividing the talent, DBs

Thurman Ward is working at safety this spring.

There is still a lot of speculation as to which athletes will end up at safety and which will stick at cornerback, but the Tide coaches have divided up the relatively large group of defensive back hopefuls into 1s and 2s. Working with Coach Chris Ball are Roman Harper, Charlie Peprah, Anthony Madison, Ramzee Robinson, Carlos Andrews, Thurman Ward, Eric Gray and Bryan Kilpatrick.

Graduate Assistant Jason Jones directs drills involving Corey Harris, Forress Rayford, Stephen Allison, Ryan Wilbanks, Danny Barger, Matt Grice and Ben Rose.

Speed Kills

That over-used saying is certainly true in football, especially at the wideout position when it comes to getting an edge on your competitors. Several young receivers are doing everything they can to catch Mike Shula's eye, but the one that he's mentioned most often is Matt Caddell.

Why?

Simple, Caddell (6-0, 171) is faster than his competition, maybe faster than any receiver except for Brandon Brooks (5-4, 163). Contrary to what some fans assume, Caddell was not a receiver-only type in high school, and he's consequently got a lot of rough edges to smooth off his game. But for now at least, superior speed keeps him in front.

Taylor Britt is working at guard and center.

Bama's Numbers Problem

Coaches pay careful attention to squad size, not just in terms of total players but also to equalize numbers by position. And unfortunately, Alabama has a problem this spring on the offensive line. The recent decision by both Gerritt Gordon and Montre Walker to give up football hurt, essentially eliminating any room for maneuvering.

For example the past two practices Justin Moon (6-4, 304) has been held out as he recovers from an illness. Nothing serious for Justin, but any absence these days forces Coach Connelly to scramble. Yesterday when Travis West (6-3, 280) had to leave practice early for class, Taylor Britt (6-4, 278) ended up working at center. And Danny Martz (6-4, 291) got no rest at all, having to play guard for both the first and second units.

At this point it's frankly not at all clear that the coaches will be able to break the squad up into two teams for the A-Day competition. Two-deep is thin. One-deep is essentially untenable.


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