Bama's challenges this spring are numerous, including developing depth on the offensive line, finding some SEC-caliber receivers to go along with Tyrone Prothro, identifying one more safety and developing a playing rotation on the defensive line. The hard truth is that some of the problems cannot be solved until fall, when the true freshmen report. If then.
And of course injury problems (quarterback and tight end) will only resolve with time and rehab.
Offensive Depth Chart
There weren't a lot of changes to the Tide's first-string offense Saturday. With Brodie Croyle and Spencer Pennington still recovering from shoulder surgery, Marc Guillon took the large majority of snaps with the top unit. The offensive line remained set, with Chris Capps (LT), Evan Mathis (LG), J.B. Closner (Center), Danny Martz (RG) and Kyle Tatum (RT).
The running backs were once again shuffled between the ones and twos. Ray Hudson, Kenneth Darby and Tim Castille all carried the ball at tailback and ran well. Darby continues to show very good quickness, and Castille looks smooth following his blockers. Saturday was actually Le'Ron McClain's day to shine, as the second-year fullback looked very good blocking and carrying the football. With McClain and Castille both working at the position, fullback could provide a lot of firepower this year for the Tide.
The second-string O-Line consisted of Von Ewing and Mark Sanders at tackle, Dawson Brown and Justin Moon at guard and Taylor Britt at center. Not surprisingly, Britt (a converted defensive tackle) is still adjusting to the center exchange, several of which were not good. Mike Machen had a workmanlike day directing the Tide's second-string offense, and Nic Luke looked solid at halfback. Walk-on Kyle Bennett looked like he could possibly help at blocking fullback. He's a tough athlete. Matt Ragland had the best play for the second-unit receivers, outfighting the defender for the ball on a sideline post pattern for a touchdown.
Defensive Depth Chart
The starting D-Line remained unchanged, with Todd Bates and Mark Anderson at the end positions and Anthony Bryant and Jeremy Clark at tackle. Cornelius Wortham has taken over at middle linebacker from Freddie Roach who has slipped to second string. Wortham is flanked by Juwan Garth (weakside) and DeMeco Ryans (strongside). Strongside linebacker Terrence Jones also worked in with the first-string unit during Saturday's scrimmage.
The secondary saw the biggest changes Saturday, as Charlie Peprah and Ramzee Robinson are now working at different spots. Peprah moved from cornerback to safety, while Robinson assumed Peprah's old starting corner slot. Roman Harper sat out with an injury, and Carlos Andrews worked beside Peprah at safety. Anthony Madison was the other cornerback.
When the second-teamers took the field, Wallace Gilberry and Chris Harris played defensive end. J.P. Adams and Rudy Griffin were the first two tackles with Allen Long also seeing action inside. Demarcus Waldrop (weakside), Freddie Roach (middle) and Juke King (strongside) made up the second linebacking corps. Walk-on Ken Vandervoort saw significant action.
Of obvious concern, Alabama simply can't boast a three-deep roster right now. At least not at every position.
Oddly, one of the biggest individual plays also resulted in a rather loud "butt chewing" by Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines. Working in his new position as starting cornerback, Ramzee Robinson battled his man down the sideline and on a slightly underthrown ball came away with the interception. It was one of two picks for Robinson on the day, impressive in anyone's book, but the redshirt sophomore then made the mistake of celebrating too much with Charlie Peprah.
Kines quickly responded by corralling both players, and letting them know in no uncertain terms that such behavior would not be tolerated. Worth noting, Peprah was involved in the now infamous celebration penalty called on Alabama versus Arkansas last year, which may have cost the Tide that game.
Spring practice is the time for teaching, which is exactly what Kines chose to do. Loudly.
Scrimmage Quick Hitters
- Continuing the roll call of injuries at the position, walk-on Barrett Earnest sat out Saturday's scrimmage. The tight end snaps that were available were taken by Rusty Hill and Will Denniston.
- On the positive side of that ledger, Clint Johnston took part in 7-on-7 work, though he was held out of all contact.
- Tyrone Prothro had a good day, catching eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. On one sideline post he simply outran Carlos Andrews, his principal would-be tackler to the endzone. The second was an underneath catch made against the blitz. Again utilizing his speed, Prothro got two-thirds of the way to the endzone down the left sideline, then deftly let two pursuers go by, cutting back against the grain for the score.
- Matt Caddell seems more comfortable. Clearly he's fast, but he's also adding some "shake and bake" to his runs now.
Le'Ron McClain had a very good scrimmage, blocking and carrying the football.
- Experienced observers still worry about Brandon Brooks' height, but right now he continues to work with Bama's top group at wideout. Saturday he used his blazing speed to get behind the defender, then found another gear to run down an overthrown post for a long gainer.
- Tim Castille continues to run well, but Bama's "jumbo backfield" doesn't work all the time. On one short goal-line effort, he tried the right side from the two yardline and was slammed to the ground by Peprah, Bates and Wortham.
- In fact, McClain's efforts carrying the football probably bode equally as well as Castille's efforts for the continued use of the "jumbo" grouping.
- As noted earlier, Taylor Britt had some problems with the center/quarterback exchange. But starting center J.B. Closner had no problems with the snap, shotgun or otherwise. Interestingly, left guard Evan Mathis spelled Closner and Britt some, handling shotgun snaps for some 7-on-7 work.
- Junior walk-on receiver Matt Miller had another good day. He caught two touchdowns in 7-on-7 drills, once pulling in a fingertip reception off a Brodie Croyle roll-out followed almost immediately by a play in which Miller out-jumped the shorter DB for the football.