Some Tide Players Are Improving

Alabama football coach Nick Saban gave his team off for Easter weekend after Friday afternoon's two-hour scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Though media was not able to view the scrimmage, statistics were provided as was commentary from the head coach.

"I'm pleased with the progress we've made," said Alabama Coach Nick Saban. "We've got some guys who are being relentless competitors, and those guys are improving tremendously. We have another group of guys who are enduring the struggle, and just dong what they need to do to get by. This is all in terms of maturity. Hopefully guys will realize what they need to do every day, and embrace the struggles on a daily basis, so when it comes time to perform, you can go out and play winning football."

Statistics revealed that first team quarterback Greg McElroy went 12-for-26 passing for 128 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Through two scrimmages, the junior has thrown six touchdown passes and been intercepted four times.

What stats didn't reveal: weather conditions on a blustery Good Friday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.

"It was tough throwing the ball out there in the wind," noted Saban. "I thought we started off very slow offensively, The first defense was very good.

"We have some young guys who have hit the wall a little bit in terms of knowing what to do. That will come with repetitions. We need people doing what they're supposed to do, when they're supposed to do it, and doing it at the right time."

As for individuals, Saban singled out junior Mike linebacker Rolando McClain (eight tackles, 2.5 sacks), and sophomore backer Dont'a Hightower (five stops, one sack), and he also had praise for receivers Julio Jones and Darius Hanks. Hanks had eight grabs for 69 yards, and Jones pulled in three for 54 yards and a touchdown.

One other defensive stat of note: sophomore end Marcel Dareus had 2.5 sacks among is five stops.

Saban said most of the yards gained by leading rusher Ivan Matchett (43 yards, seven carries, one TD) came against third teamers, and included a 30-yard or so run. Running with the first team, Terry Grant only had two yards on 16 tries. "We didn't run the ball today," Saban said. "It would help if we had our backs, but we have some inconsistencies in the offensive line.

"I think Greg McElroy has done a really good job all spring. He's quite a bit ahead of the other guys. I think Thomas Darrah and Star Jackson have both shown that they have a lot of ability, but they are not as far along in their development to be able to go out there and run the team on a consistent basis. We've just got to keep working with them. Both guys have made plays on occasion, but it's got to be consistent."

During the scrimmage, Darrah went 9-18 for 91 yards and one pick, while Jackson hit on 5-12 for 12 yards and a touchdown.

"We need to keep improving relative to how we throw the ball, and it's not just the quarterback," said the Tide coach,. "The quarterback has done a good job throwing the ball. It also involves pass blocking and receivers running the right routes."

Saban listed three men he'd like to see develop in the secondary: safeties Green and Mark Barron, and cornerback B.J. Scott. He said Green played well Friday, and Scott "has made significant progress. He's going to need repetitions so he can play with consistency."

Green made five stops Friday and picked off a pass while breaking up a pair of passes.

Saban said junior defensive end Luther Davis sprained an ankle, but it did not appear to be a serious injury.

One notable item from practice observers during the limited media viewing period was the return of Jack linebacker Brandon Fanney to the first unit -- at least in drills. Saban said Fanney worked with the ones, two's and three's in the scrimmage. "His experience shows," said Saban.

Fanney was suspended for the first half of spring drills for an unspecified violation of team rules. Others who have worked at the Jack slot include Eryk Anders, Courtney Upshaw and Donta' Hightower, who is back at the Will spot for now.

Grant continues to get first team reps while Roy Upchurch (neck) and Mark Ingram (hamstring) continue to sit out with injuries. Guard Mike Johnson continues to rehab an ankle sprain, and Saban noted that Johnson's absence stood out in the offensive line during the scrimmage. Brian Motley has worked with the starters in Johnson's absence. Ingram could be back before A Day, while Upchurch is expected to return to full contact status in August.

For the time being, Green appears to have a slight edge on senior Ali Sharrief in the battle to replace Rashad Johnson, but, it's a fluid situation. Sharrief could well be back with the starters come A Day.

Though he goes through drills, wide out Earl Alexander is also still being held out of contract drills, and will be until August.

After lifting weights and viewing scrimmage film Monday, the Crimson Tide will practice twice more -- Tuesday and Thursday -- before A Day kicks off Saturday April 18 at 2:00 p.m.

Saban said he was happy that CBS has decided to televise the next two Alabama-Auburn games, but added, "I wasn't for it being played on Friday."

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