Wilson Throws for 223 Yards in Scrimmage

Here's a joke with no punch line: Alabama's scrimmage went well on Friday.

That was the word from Head Coach Nick Saban after the scrimmage in 92,000-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium, which went empty on Friday because the scrimmage was closed to the public and to the media, save for a few prospects and other VIPs who sat cheerily in the stands.

"I think we got a lot accomplished out there today," Saban said. "The offense did a good job signaling and a good job making adjustments. I'm pleased with the progress that we've made to this point."

It's not that Saban was being dishonest and the scrimmage went poorly. In reality, we just don't know. All reports will be short on specific outstanding performances, sleeper-type back-ups who might be emerging, style of offense, defense, special teams (and what was successful), standouts and other noteworthy items.

Saban said receivers DJ Hall, and Matt Caddell, and quarterback John Parker Wilson did a good job managing things, and that Zeke Knight made some plays. Simeon Castille picked up a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown (no word on who fumbled.)

Speaking of fumbling, Saban said the ball was on the ground "two or three" times, and one scrimmage viewer said the scrimmage was sloppy. It wasn't running back Jimmy Johns who fumbled, though. He missed practice on Thursday and again Friday for academic issues that has him in Saban's doghouse.

"If he does what he's supposed to do today, over the weekend and on Monday we might let him back out there on Tuesday," Saban said. "Dependability is part of it. The guy can't do what he's supposed to do to get to practice. What does that say?"

Receiver Keith Brown and tight end Travis McCall also didn't participate in the scrimmage, Brown with bruised ribs and McCall with a strained calf muscle.

Continuing the scattershot mention of players in the scrimmage, Saban said Bryan Motley did a good job at his new defensive line position and that Rashad Johnson was smart and was always in the right place. Bobby Greenwood made some sacks, Saban said, and running backs Glen Coffee and Jamar Taylor "made a couple of nice runs" while freshman running back Terry Grant "made some guys miss in space." No mention of running back Roy Upchurch, though.

Javier Arenas did a nice job with kick returns, Saban said.

The sports information office gave out stats Friday, after they were cleared for release from the head coach, saying that John Parker Wilson completed 12 of 27 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown, and that Coffee rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Taylor had 32 yards on 10 carries, Grant had 53 yards on 12 carries, and Upchurch 33 yards on seven carries. The leading receiver was Matt Caddell with four catches for 80 yards.

In a way, the post-scrimmage media session comments were reminiscent of (to hear the coach tell it) all those great practices Mike Shula's team was having behind closed doors a year ago. According to those interviews, last year Alabama had one of the longest consecutive runs of good practices of any team in the modern era of college football. According to those post-practice interviews, practices were solid week in and week out, even as he teams continued to defy the logic of such a statement on the field on Saturdays.

Saban preemptively griped about the scrimmage coverage at the end of his conference, saying that if he released the stats and one guy had 80 yards against walk-ons and another guy had 50 yards against the first string defense the media would all say the guy with 80 yards was obviously better. (One solution to that conundrum would be to not provide stats, while another would be to open the scrimmages so anyone who wants can see and make judgments for themselves.)

We know that Alabama has above average talent at the offensive skill positions, and we know the offensive line is a seasoned and improving bunch, with the exception of the right tackle position. We know that John Parker Wilson is a really good quarterback, and that a fullback isn't among one of the best 11 players on offense (however there was a fullback in use in the offense in plays during the early portion of the scrimmage, one viewer said). We don't know how many times Wilson tried to throw to the tight end.

We know the defensive is lacking, and has only four or five proven players. It is especially weak up front. But we've already told you all that. We're not real sure how close Saban and the new staff are to solving the problems on defense, or how they're planning to take advantage of the talent on the offense. They want to surprise Western Carolina, I guess. That is if the 800 high school coaches, the couple of hundred who watched today, or the tens of thousands who attend A-Day (including a television broadcast) don't give too much away.

**Note: Look for an upcoming report on Alabama football in Sports Illustrated or SI.com in the near future. SI's Stewart Mandel has been on campus the past couple of days with extra access to Bama spring practice.

FINAL STATISTICS
Football Scrimmage – Friday, April 6, 2007

Passing
Wilson 12/27 223 yards 1 TD
McElroy 13/24 149 yards
Rushing
Coffee 15-81 TD
Taylor 10-32 TD
Grant 12-53 TD
Upchurch 7-33


Receiving
Caddell 4-80
Stover 2-31
Hoke 3-32
Lowe 2-46
Grant 2-41 TD
Hall 2-17
Grant 2-31 TD
McCoy 2-28
Dial 2-19
Hanrahan 2-11
Salaam 2-45
Upchurch 1-12
Alexander 1-8
Taylor 1- (-3)

Field Goals
Christensen – Good 38, Missed 45 Tiffin – Good 31, 18

Punts
Fitzgerald 6-36.7 average

Tackles
Motley- 11 Tackles, 3 TFLs
R. Johnson- 8 tackles, 1 pressure
Greenwood- 2 sacks for 10 yards
Gilberry- 4 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 hurry, 1 forced fumble

SCORING
Coffee 4 yard run (Christensen PAT)
Tiffin 18 yard FG
Grant 2 yard run (Christensen PAT)
Castille 32 yard fumble recovery (PAT not attempted)
Christensen 38 yard FG
Wilson 3 yard pass to Grant (Christensen PAT)
Taylor 2 yard run (Tiffin PAT)
Christensen 31 yard FG


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