Newcomers Stand Out In Scrimmage
Names like wide receivers Julio Jones and B.J. Scott, linebackers Donta Hightower and Jerrell Harris, running back Mark Ingram and junior college transfer nose tackle Terrence Cody were among those earning positive comments from Nick Saban following the Alabama football scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. The two-and-a-half hour workout included third down situations, red zone offense and defense and two-minute drill along with the scrimmage.
"This kind of officially ends fall camp with the scrimmage today and we certainly have room for improvement," Saban said. "That is certainly what we will focus on." Alabama will resume practice beginning Tuesday with, presumably, more emphasis on upcoming games than has been the case the past two weeks.
Saban said, "The good news is we made some big plays on offense today. John Parker (quarterback John Parker Wilson) was pretty precise with the ball. He did not have any interceptions and we did not turn it over. We probably did not have the consistency that we need play-in and play-out in either the running game or the passing game to be a good offensive team."
Saban said the 60-play scrimmage was "like a game in that our coaches were in the press box and we had kicking situations when they came up."
Wilson completed 14 of 25 passes for 255 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore quarterback Greg McElroy completed 19 of 38 passes for 198 yards on Saturday. Saban pointed out that McElroy had more plays than Wilson as McElroy was getting extra work in two-minute drill. The Tide coach said three quarterbacks—Nick Fanuzzi, walk-on Tom Darrah and freshman Star Jackson are working to see who joins McElroy in the race to be top back-up. Fanuzzi did not get as many plays today.
Saban said freshman quarterback Star Jackson "is doing a good job. He got some snaps today. He's a very talented guy." The coach said Jackson is having the expected problems of a freshman playing quarterback.
Saban said the offense had a couple of big plays from freshman wide receiver Julio Jones and junior wide receiver Mike McCoy.
"We had some guys make some big plays," Saban added. "Julio (Jones) had five catches for about 125 yards. He made a big play. Mike McCoy made a big play and had three catches. B.J. Scott had five catches in the scrimmage. Earl Alexander had four catches. So, we spread the ball around a little bit more today. We were a little more effective throwing it."
Alabama's top six receivers had 23 receptions in Saturday's scrimmage, led by Jones (125 yards, 1 TD) and freshmen B.J. Scott (60 yards), who had five catches each. Sophomore wide receiver Earl Alexander had four catches for 44 yards, while McCoy (81 yards, 1 TD), freshman wide receiver Chris Jackson (60 yards) and junior running back Terry Grant (37 yards) had three catches apiece.
Junior running back Glen Coffee led all UA rushers with 35 yards on 11 carries. Freshman Mark Ingram had seven carries for 30 yards and Grant had six rushing attempts for 13 yards.
Saban also noted defensive improvement on Saturday, particularly in the red zone and third down situations.
"Defensively, I thought we played better in this scrimmage," Saban continued. "We were more consistent. We did give up a couple of big plays and that's something we always want to guard against. The defense played well in the red area and played well on third down. If you play well in the red area and play well on third down and don't give up big plays, then all of a sudden you become hard to score on. That's something that we continue to improve on. I don't think the ones (first team defense) gave up but one big play, but that is one too many. That's something that we have to continue to work on. "
Junior linebacker Prince Hall led the Tide defense with eight tackles. Hall will not be playing when the Crimson Tide opens the season in two weeks against Clemson in the GeorgiaDome in Atlanta. He is serving a suspension of at least three games to start the season.
Junior linebacker Eryk Anders also had an active day with six tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss and one blocked field goal in the scrimmage. Junior defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, junior defensive back Ali Sharrief and sophomore preseason All-SEC linebacker Rolando McClain had five tackles each. Deaderick also added four sacks. Preseason All-SEC senior safety Rashad Johnson added three stops and one interception.
Saban said he was pleased with the work of kicking specialists in Saturday's scrimmage. He pointed out that placekicker Leigh Tiffin got the day off. "His leg is a little tired, so he got today off and he'll get two more days off and then should be fine." Saban said Corey Smith did the placekicking.
"All in all, we're not disappointed with where we are," Saban said. "We certainly need to continue to make improvement as a football team, especially with a lot of young players and the depth we have on our football team.
"There was a huge difference in some of the young players this week and last week. Donta Hightower played really well in this scrimmage and made a big improvement. Jerell Harris has improved. The young receivers have improved. Mark Ingram has done a good job. He didn't make any big runs today, but is still pretty effective out there. We have a couple of young offensive linemen we continue to work with. Terrence Cody is a new and that has made an impact in the middle. We need to continue to work on his conditioning, so he can sustain things. Marcel Dareus has done some good things."
Saban said Cody "made significant improvement in weight management," and said the 6-5 nose tackle is in the 365 range. Saban said he might not be able to lose any more weight, but he could improve his conditioning. He said Cody "is a force in the middle, a guy who is able to move the line."
Asked about the strengths of the team, Saban said "togetherness." He added, "I like their ability and their attitude. I want to see a little leadership emerge."
Saban there was some experimentation in the front seven, including moving Cory Reamer from weakside linebacker to strongside with Hightower working at weakside. He also said that freshman Chris Jordan was working at linebacker after having been at tailback. Saban explained that Jordan might be high on the list of top Alabama players, but that there is something of a "logjam" at tailback and that the Tide is a "little thin" at linebacker. He said if need be, Jordan could move back to tailback "easily."
Saban said he knew that Jordan was a little lost at linebacker, "but he was running to the ball and making tackles."
Alabama practices are closed to the public, but the scrimmage was witnessed by a handful of members of the 1958 Crimson Tide team who were in Tuscaloosa for a reunion marking 50 years since they played.
Alabama will take the next two days off and return to practice on Tuesday.
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