First Scrimmage Good for Defense

It's common knowledge that a squad's defensive unit is usually far ahead of the offensive unit in the early segment of spring practice, and while that was true in Alabama's first spring scrimmage Saturday morning at Bryant-Denny Stadium, it was still disconcerting for most onlookers.

"Offensively, we were poor pretty much the whole day. Up front, whether or not it was pass protection or run blocking or assignments, we just had a bad day offensively. We need a lot of improvement," Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula said of the 91-play scrimmage.

Grayshirt freshman John Parker Wilson took the repetitions with the first-team offense and was sacked three times in his first five pass attempts. There was no live tackling allowed on the quarterbacks, but they were considered down when they were tagged by a defensive player.

"John Parker Wilson wasn't as good as he had been earlier in practice, but we'll just keep working with him," Shula said. "We are throwing a lot of stuff at him and we still think he's going to a really good quarterback. He's going to get better each and every practice. That position needs a lot of experience in scrimmages and game work."

Wilson showed his natural headiness towards the end of the scrimmage, however, when he moved out of the pocket to his right to avoid pressure and lofted a pass to Tyrone Prothro who had come uncovered 10 yards downfield. Prothro took the pass at the 25 and made several defenders miss, cutting back across the field several times before crossing the goal line.

The coaches were hoping Saturday would be a day to evaluate redshirt freshman Antoine Caldwell in game-like situations, but Caldwell twisted his ankle in drills before the scrimmage began and was unable to complete the scrimmage.

Shula said the offensive line, "had a tough time with pass protection, but that's good news, bad news. You are praising one group for guys like Mark Anderson, Wallace Gilberry and Curtis Dawson is doing some good things and Rudy has been real consistent. But the offensive line needs a lot of work."

Another promising young offensive lineman, B.J. Stabler, worked with the second-string offensive line throughout most of the day.

Shula said of Stabler, "He eased his way in today, but with his injuries it's almost like he's brand new to our team. Not only the mental side, but he needs to get better physically, too. He needs all the work that he can get in the drills we do."

Tight end Nick Walker has had a good first portion of spring training and made an impressive circus catch early in the scrimmage before he took a blow to his right leg.

Walker said, "I took a helmet on it. It's nothing more than a bump. I'll be back Monday."

While Walker did leave the field using crutches, neither his nor Caldwell's injury seemed to be severe.

Marc Guillon provided the first and biggest offensive spark of the day during his second series of the scrimmage, hitting Matt Caddell for a 60-yard touchdown down the left sideline.

"Marc did a nice job. He's really had a good week. He's making good decisions on getting the ball out," Shula said. "There are a couple of things - he has to make better throws when he's in there. He's still not 100 per cent, so that's encouraging because when does get to 100 percent, he got a chance to keep going in the right direction."

Caddell was the day's leading receiver with four catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Tyrone Prothro had four receptions for 57 yards and a touchown while Zeke Knight had three receptions for 41 yards. Knight's first two receptions were touchdowns. Shula said Knight was one of the few offensive bright spots.

Guillon was by far the best quarterback of the scrimmage, completing 12-of-21 passes for 186 yards, two touchdowns and one interception including another nice touchdown pass to Knight.

Aaron Johns worked with the first unit Saturday after spending time with the second- and third-string throughout the early part of spring. Rashad Johnson led the rushing with 41 yards on 5 carries including a 24-yard touchdown against the reserve defense. Johns had 29 yards on 11 carries, and also added nice runs on shovel passes. He had 21 receiving yards.

"We need a lot of work at that position," Shula said of the running backs. "Our competition, we won't even know until we start fall practice. These guys that are here now are getting opportunities to show what they can do and to compete for those jobs. We have some guys coming in that are going to create some competition and be better because of it. It's a little bit like last year except that position last year was wide receiver."

Defensively, Rudy Griffin dominated the scrimmage with five tackles including two sacks and another tackle for a loss of one yard. Wallace Gilberry had four tackles, a sack an interception and one pass break up.

On one play Gilberry and Chris Harris converged on quarterback John Parker Wilson at nearly the same time, and as Wilson tried to throw the ball it was batted in the air by Harris and picked off by Gilberry.

Freddie Roach showed spectacular hands, diving to intercept a short Guillon pass over the middle.

"The first defense looked really good and they should, yet there are still some things we're going to get better at. The second defense did some good things early, but towards the end it wasn't quite as good," Shula said. "When we played our best defense last year we had 11 guys getting to the ball, and we played a lot of good defense last year. We had that today."

One second-team player, middle linebacker Matt Collins, had an impressive day with 5 tackles and a fumble recovery. Two of Collins' tackles came on goal line running plays up the middle.

Asked for his overall evaluation of the defense after the scrimmage, coordinator Joe Kines said, "I've been in this business long enough to know you need to wait to see the film before you start evaluating. I thought the effort was good."

Passing (Att-Comp-Yds): Marc Guillon (12-21-186, 2TD, INT); John Parker Wilson (13-23-138, 2 INT, 2 TD); Adam Thrash (1-1-34)

Rushing (Att-Yds): Rashad Johnson (5-41, TD); Aaron Johns (11-29); Le'Ron McClain (4-6); Theo Townsend (4-6); Brandon Brooks (1-minus 5);Guillon (3-minus 8); Adam Thrash (4-minus 10); John Parker Wilson (8-minus 28); Team (1-minus 35)

Receiving (Rec-Yds): Matt Caddell (4-88, TD); Tyrone Prothro (4-57, TD); Zeke Knight (3-41, 2 TD); Aaron Johns (3-21); Brandon Brooks (2-22); Kyle Bennett (2-14); Patrick Gordon (1-34); DJ Hall (1-27); Barrett Earnest (1-24); Nick Walker (1-19); Le'Ron McClain (1-6); Rashad Johnson (1-4); Will Denniston (1-4); Theo Townsend (1-minus 3)

Defensive Leaders: Rudy Griffin (5 tackles, 2 sacks, TFL); Wallace Gilberry (4 tackles, sack, INT, PBU); Chris Harris (4 tackles, sack, INT, PBU); Marcel Stamps (5 tackles, fumble recovery); Matt Collins (5 tackles, fumble recovery); Keith Saunder (3 tackles, sack, fumble recovery); Juke King (4 tackles, fumble caused); Ramzee Robinson (3 tackles, TFL, PBU)

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