(Above left) Part of Coach Price's numerous quarterback drills involve the athletes throwing across their bodies on their knees, forcing them to use proper form. In the photo Mike Price speaks with Brodie Croyle (#12).
Michael Machen (#17) looks downfield. Listed at 6-6, 230 pounds, Machen (pronounced "Match-en") is easily the biggest of Bama's five athletes working at quarterback. And given that Coach Mike Price ideally prefers taller QBs, that probably works in Machen's favor. The former Minor League pitcher is still adjusting to Division 1A college football, but he has shown a good arm and solid potential. However, he'll need time to develop. In Saturday's scrimmage Machen was 1-of-3 passing for just six yards and two interceptions.
When the former staff took their option-oriented offense with them to Texas--replaced by Price's pass-first attack, many wondered about the role of redshirt freshman Brandon Avalos (#11). Recognized as a gifted runner, Avalos also has a good arm and so far is adjusting well to the new offense--though Coach Price has noted that he'd prefer that Avalos focus exclusively on football. Avalos is also playing baseball this spring, and some diamond fans predict he will be Bama's starting centerfielder before the season ends. Avalos took a relatively small number of snaps in Saturday's scrimmage, misfiring on his only pass attempt.
A personality clash between Spencer Pennington (#13) and his former position coach, coupled with a difficult year adjusting to big-time college sports, had many fans predicting that Pennington would drop down the depth chart this year. However, the new staff has clearly given the tall athlete new life. This spring Pennington has made steady progress, and following Saturday's scrimmage he has a firm hold on the No. 2 spot on the quarterback depth chart. A tall (6-3, 223), athletic passer, Pennington had a very good scrimmage. He finished 9-of-15 passing for 110 yards and a touchdown. He was also at the controls when the offense scored its other TD on a run by Kenneth Darby. Like Avalos, Pennington is also playing baseball, which Coach Price frankly isn't thrilled about.
Croyle was dissatisfied with his performance Saturday, but no one doubts that he is firmly entrenched as Bama's starting quarterback. All three Prices (Head Coach, Mike; Offensive Coordinator, Eric; and Quarterbacks Coach, Aaron) have consistently praised both Croyle's ability and leadership. The new emphasis on down-the-field passing should especially play to Croyle's strengths as a quarterback. Though he was dodging rushing linemen and blitzing linebackers for most of the morning, Croyle finished Saturday's scrimmage 14-of-28 passing for 93 yards.
On the first day of spring practice observers were checking their roster to see who was wearing the No. 8 yellow jersey. Last year's coaching staff chose to work with only four quarterbacks (Tyler Watts, Croyle, Pennington and Avalos), but this spring five athletes wear the no-contact jerseys. Teo Clark, a 6-2, 196-pound walk-on from Winston County High School in Jasper, is also calling signals for the Tide.