What I'll Be Watching

Over the years, the winners of the Dixie Howell Award as the most valuable player and the Dwight Stephenson Award as the top lineman in the A-Day Game have sometimes gone to men who went on to stardom the next season. And sometimes not. All-in-all, good players have won the awards, but not necessarily the guys who were going to be All-America the ensuing season.

Last year John Parker Wilson won the Dixie Howell Award as the top player in Alabama's spring game. And he may win it again this year, because quarterbacks are frequently the winners and there is little doubt that Wilson will get plenty of playing time Saturday. J.B. Closner was last year's winner of the lineman award.

These awards are voted by the media. I think last year that Mitch Dobbs and I block voted (along with our annual expert analyst, Tommy Brooker) for Wilson and Closner, though probably none of us could say with certainty how the two performed. Particularly Closner, a center.

Very late in Saturday's scrimmage we'll again put our heads together and try to come up with good candidates.

But that's not the main thing I'm going to be watching.

The A-Day Game will actually be an offense vs. defense structured scrimmage. Not that every play will be scripted, because unlike normal scrimmages the offense will keep the ball as long as it can keep moving and the defense will come off the field whenever it stops the offense. In normal scrimmage work the offense keeps the ball for a designated number of plays before there is a switch.

The scrimmage will begin at 1:30 p.m. CST Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. There is no charge for admission. It will be first offense vs. first defense and second offense vs. second defense.

I'm not much different than anyone else who will be watching. I'll watch the quarterbacks throw and the receivers catch and watch the running and tackling.

And I'll try to watch some specific positions. I think our coaches believe that left tackle is improved over last season, so I'll watch Chris Capps and Michael Johnson. I may not be knowledgeable enough to know how they are doing, but at least I'll try.

I'll watch the middle linebackers, Matt Collins and Prince Hall, to see if they can stay out of entanglements and plug the holes. I'll watch to see how Keith Saunders at defensive end and Dominic Lee at defensive tackle, who have both had surprisingly good springs, can keep it going.

I'll watch Marcus Carter at safety. The rest of the secondary, even if Ramzee Robinson is held out, has been reasonably consistent to my eye. Carter has made big plays, but has also been (as is the nature of the position) conspicuous when he has been a step late.

And I'll watch the clock. Those 12-minute quarters can slip by quickly. Afterwards we'll have stories to do, the final interviews for at least a few weeks (when we will be working on the 2006 'BAMA Football Yearbook, and then I'll hopefully be watching a little white ball occasionally dipping into a golf cup for a few days.

And I'll also look forward to August, when Alabama will go about the business of putting together the 2006 Crimson Tide football team.


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