Saban Sees Good In First Scrimmage

Alabama Coach Nick Saban had said prior to the first scrimmage of spring practice on Friday that he expected it to be interesting. It was interesting, he said, and based on his remarks it was mostly positive. He said that while all players will be able to see they can improve, they can also take something positive from the scrimmage.

Now it moves to another stage. Alabama players will have Saturday and Sunday off for Easter, then resume work Monday and have a second scrimmage on April 10. The week between scrimmages gives Crimson Tide players an opportunity to build on what was good and to learn from mistakes, Saban said.

Friday's scrimmage was at Bryant-Denny Stadium, as will be the upcoming Saturday scrimmage. Bama has passed the midway point of spring practice with Friday being the eighth of 15 practices. Spring training ends April 17 with the A-Day Game in Bryant-Denny with kickoff at 2 p.m. CDT. That will be open to the public at no admission charge. ESPN will televise the event nationally.

One thing that pleased Saban was that the offense had no turnovers.

The scrimmage lasted roughly 120 plays and was just over two hours under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s.

"I think it was obvious that the guys that have knowledge and experience played fast, played well and made a lot of plays," Saban said. "Some of the guys that are learning what to do, how to do it and why it's important to do it that way, didn't play quite as fast. But this was a good starting point. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn for each one of these guys. "

Returning starting quarterback Greg McElroy completied14-of-22 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron, considered to be the number two quarterback, completed 21-of-28 passes for 229 yards and three scores. That's a combined 35-50 (70 per cent) for 464 yards.

Junior wide receiver Julio Jones had eight receptions for 105 yards, including a long of 34 yards from McElroy. Redshirt freshman Kenny Bell caught four passes for 62 yards while Marquis Maze had three receptions for 56 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown reception from McElroy. Redshirt freshman Kevin Norwood had three catches for 46 yards and one score.

Saban said, "There were times when both first units really looked good, in terms of what they did and how they moved the ball. Both running backs did a good job. Trent (Richardson) had a little better stats, but Mark (Ingram) did a really good job. Julio (Jones) had eight catches and Kenny Bell had a couple of big catches. I thought both quarterbacks statistically did a pretty good job. Both (quarterbacks) had reps with the first team."

Saban said that linebacker Nico Johnson suffered a knee sprain and would miss a few practices. The only players who missed the scrimmage with injuries are center William Vlachos, who is out this spring after having undergone off-season foot surgery, and defensive end Milton Talbert.

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower "did everything, every play he was supposed to" Saban said, including linebacker, pass rusher, and nickel. Hightower, an upcoming junior, suffered a season-ending knee injury early last season. Saban said he saw good linebacker play from Jerrell Harris, Chris Jordan and Tana Patrick.

Junior defensive end Marcell Dareus picked up where he left off in the BCS National Championship Game with eight tackles and four sacks. Linebacker Chavis Williams added two sacks and three tackles with cornerback B.J. Scott making six tackles and breaking up two passes while safety Mark Barron had five tackles.

"I was pleased with the way the first defense played," Saban said. "We don't have the same kind of depth, and we have to get more players playing consistently on the defensive field after that first group.

In the secondary, Saban singled out cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and B.J. Scott and safeties Mark Batton and Rod Woodson.

"Marcell Dareus had a really good day; I think he had four sacks and maybe eight tackles."

True freshman place-kicker Cade Foster was 2 for 4 on field goal attempts. He hit from 42 yards on his first try and then booted a 38-yarder at the end of the scrimmage. He also came up just inches short on a 56-yard attempt. Sophomore Jeremy Shelly hit on his only attempt of the day from 30 yards.

In answer to a question, Saban said senior offensive lineman Taylor Pharr had shown a strong punting leg, though he needs better consistency. "He may be an option," the coach said.

Here at the scrimmage statistics, including 11-on-11 work, red zone drills, goalline, and two-minute.

PASSING LEADERS Greg McElroy - 14 for 22, 235 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT A.J. McCarron - 21 for 28, 229 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT

RUSHING LEADERS Trent Richardson - 6 rush, 44 yards, 2 TDs Demetrius Goode - 7 rush, 31 yards Eddie Lacy - 9 rush, 29 yards Mark Ingram - 9 rush, 22 yards

RECEIVING LEADERS Julio Jones - 8 rec., 105 yards Preston Dial - 5 rec., 45 yards Kenny Bell - 4 rec., 62 yards Kendall Kelly - 4 rec., 39 yards Marquis Maze - 3 rec., 56 yards, 1 TD Kevin Norwood - 3 rec., 46 yards, 1 TD Darius Hanks - 2 rec., 49 yards Trent Richardson - 3 rec., 44 yards

FIELD GOALS Cade Foster - Made: 42, 38; Missed: 56, 39. Jeremy Shelley - Made: 30.

DEFENSIVE LEADERS Marcell Dareus - 8 tackles, 4 sacks B.J. Scott - 6 tackles, 2 PBU Mark Barron - 5 tackles Jerrell Harris - 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU Dre Kirkpatrick - 4 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 sack Dont'a Hightower - 3 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 sack Chavis Williams - 3 tackles, 2 sacks Josh Chapman - 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack

SCORING Touchdowns - 6 (Maze 22-yard pass from McElroy; Michael Williams 11-yard TD pass from McCarron; Richardson 18-yard run; Norwood 15-yard pass from McCarron; John Baites 5-yard pass from McCarron; Richardson 21-yard run) Field Goals - 3 (Foster 42-yards; Shelley 30-yards; Foster 38 yards)

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