Less Than Full Speed

By all accounts sophomore transfer receiver Nikita Stover has the potential to be a go-to player for Alabama in the fall, but nagging injury has kept that potential locked up through the first two thirds of Alabama's spring practice.

One thing not missing when he has been in practice are his good hands. Stover had a rare (maybe the first of spring training) dropped pass on Wednesday, the 11th of 15 practices allowed under the rules. In last Saturday's scrimmage Stover had one catch for 10 yards where only three players had more than one grab among the 15 total completed passes.

His speed is still a potent weapon even at less than perfect health.

Since dealing with a strained groin suffered early in spring practice, Nikita Stover has been back out on the field trying to improve his route-running and learn the Tide offense, but he hasn't been doing so at 100 per cent health.

"I'm getting better," he said. "It's been a problem less and less. It's still there but I'm stretching after every couple of plays. It's starting to feel better."

In addition to the groin strain Stover has had to deal with "real bad" tendonitis in his knee which contribute to his sidelining last week.

"Right now I'm probably about 70-75 per cent," he said after Tuesday's practice. "I'm just trying to work with the team to get better."

Mike Shula said yesterday that Stover "has to get used to the way we play here. It's understandable that he is behind." Another way Shula wants Stover to improve is by spending more time with the playbook to make up for the lost repetitions in practice.

All that has kept him running with the third string offense throughout spring, except for one day in the first week when he was in the second-string yellow jersey. In the three-tiered jersey ranking system, two receivers, Keith Brown and DJ Hall are in the first team white jersey, and only Matt Caddell wears a second-team jersey in practice now.

Stover said he'll be ready to get a lot of repetitions in Thursday's second spring scrimmage. "Coaches are looking for someone to step up."

Alabama second spring scrimmage, open to the public, is scheduled to begin around 4 p.m. at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It is the last practice before spring break next week. The squad will practice Tuesday and Thursday the following week before A-Day on April 1.

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