Dave Rader is no different than any other football coach in that he reserves the right to change his opinion of a performance "until after I see the film," or, as is the case these days, the videotape. But Alabama's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach had an initial impression that there was more good than bad following Bama's scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday.
"Our pass protection is better now than at any point in the season last year, and better than it was in spring ball," Rader said. "That's a tribute to Coach Connelly (Offensive Line Coach Bobby Connelly) and Coach Woods (Running Backs Coach Sparky Woods)."
Rader said that when Bama gets good pass protection, "It gives Brodie confidence. And it gives him time. And when he has time he usually makes the play."
After almost every practice, the primary conversation subject with Rader is Brodie Croyle, the junior Alabama quarterback. After Saturday's scrimmage the subject of Croyle did not come up until late in Rader's meeting with the media. But it was no surprise that after Croyle hit 12 of 25 passes for 220 yards and four touchdowns Saturday that Rader said, "Brodie had another good day in a pre-season of continuing good days. He's had one practice that was not-so-good and the rest have been good."
But with Croyle firmly established as the number one quarterback, interest turned to the battle for back-up. Rader said that both Marc Guillon, who was the first second team quarterback to play Saturday, and Spencer Pennington, who was the number two quarterback last year, "did some good things and made some good throws. Both are seeing downfield well and making good decisions. They know where to go with the football. It's a tight race."
Guillon had the better of it statistically, completing six-of-12 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown (a short pass to fleet freshman wide receiver Keith Brown, who took it 51 yards), but also suffered an interception at the hands of Anthony Madison on the first play of the scrimmage. Pennington hit four-of-10 passes for 36 yards.
"Even though we had a couple of drops, we were making good throws and catches," Rader said. "Our passing game is well beyond where we were last year. It's very positive."
Rader said he was impressed with the "young receivers." That's about all the receivers Bama has, but they were impressive. In addition to Brown, freshman D.J. Hall had five catches (one of them a spectacular one-handed grab on a fade pattern for a touchdown) for 70 yards and two touchdowns; sophomore Tyrone Prothro had four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown (also a one-handed catch); and redshirted freshman Matt Caddell three-for-33 and a touchdown.
He said that Hall and Brown, particularly, "are going to participate" in games this fall.
And, Rader said, he was glad to see tight end Clint Johnston get a long catch. Johnston made a 25-yard yard reception from Croyle, leading to a touchdown. "We want to throw to the tight end this year, but our defense isn't letting us do that right now," Rader said.
Rader thought that top tailbacks Ray Hudson and Kenneth Darby had good days. Hudson had three rushes for 42 yards and caught a 24-yard pass and Darby had six runs for 42 yards and one touchdeown and caught two passes for 45 yards.
Rader thought the second offense "played aggressively. They are preparing to play. Now we need to prepare them to win." He said it helped that the second offensive line got two players–tackle Chris Capps and guard Mark Sanders–back from injury.
Rader said the negative of the scrimmage was, as it had been the previous Monday, the two-minute drill. "We have to evaluate what we are doing," Rader said. "Our secondary is doing a better job than our offense. I think a big part of it is that our defense plays very good against the two-minute offense."