Wideouts, wideouts everywhere…
Before spring practice began, the new staff was already shaking its head over the number of receivers on the team. Several walk-on wideouts from last year did not return, but the unit total remains daunting. To keep things organized, the Tide receivers are working in two groups.
Senior Antonio Carter is sitting out spring with a stress fracture in his leg.
Group two consists of walk-ons Jason Bolden, Matt Miller, William Hold, Matt Ragland, Danny Barger, Kendrick Eaton, Derek DuBois, Shawn Johnson, Josh Averett and Dennis DuBois.
Centers of attention
Several obvious candidates are battling for the empty starting guard slot, notably Grant Dickey, Dennis Alexander, Atlas Herrion, Mark Sanders and Danny Martz. But the more intriguing question is "Who will inherit the center position vacated by two-time All-SEC player Alonzo Ephraim?"
Despite the fact that he played there his entire true freshman season, Evan Mathis does not now appear to be an option. Several offensive linemen have been taking snaps at center, including last year's back-up J.B. Closner, starting guard Justin Smiley and walk-on Cody Grammer.
But maybe the most interesting candidate is senior Matt Lomax. Originally signed as an offensive tackle, Lomax has struggled to find a role for himself on the Bama O-Line. Noted for his sense of humor (one player remarked recently "What would practice be like without Lomax?" Matt quickly shot back "Boring!"), Lomax has spent time at every spot on the offensive line with many observers wondering if he'd ever live up to his recruiting hype.
So far this spring Closner has worked with the first unit while Lomax snaps for the twos. A good center requires as much intelligence as anything else, and some practice observers think that for that reason--and his maturity--Lomax is a legitimate possibility.
Mike Price isn't hiding the fact that the Tide coaches are desperately looking for more speed at wide receiver. Because of that need, expect Scoop McDowell (former centerfielder in the San Francisco Giants organization) and Marcus McKnight to get plenty of chances to prove themselves this spring.
McDowell stands 6-1, weighs 176 pounds and has been clocked at a legitimate 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. Proving that timing, in 1998 he was designated the Fastest Base Runner for the entire Giants organization.
McKnight was a late signee last year, joining the Tide squad just before the start of two-a-days. Listed last season as 6-2, 170 pounds, less generous eyes put his reporting weight in the 165-pound range. This season McKnight has bulked up to 183.
Both McDowell and McKnight are still extremely raw, but each has a step of speed on most of Bama's current wideouts. And in McDowell's case, that edge probably stretches to a step and a half--or two.
New offensive line Coach Connelly will answer to "Bob," but he says he and his wife agree it really should be "Bobby."
In Wednesday's practice all four starting D-Linemen were sidelined with either injury (Bryant-bruised coccyx, Odom slight concussion) or illness (both Childress and McKay-Loescher had the flu). Plus, a class tutorial kept reserve end Leslie Williams from practice. In their absence, junior Todd Bates and redshirt freshmen Chris Harris, Jeremy Clark and Kyle Tatum worked as "starters."
Sons Aaron Price and Eric Price work for their father, Head Coach Mike Price. What to do when you have three (count ‘em, three) coaches whose last name is Price? Nicknames, of course. Informally they're "EP," "AP," and (of course) "Coach Price."