Gus Malzahn, who allowed star wide receiver Duke Williams to return to practice after a week-long journey into the coach’s doghouse, said his football team has made progress.
“I feel like we have improved in all three areas,” he said of the offense, defense and special teams. “We are still in the process of improving, but I do like where we are at at this point.”
Malzahn said Saturday’s scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium should give the coaching staff good information on both veteran players and newcomers. “Hopefully, we will have good information for all three coordinators after the scrimmage,” he said.
The Tigers only scheduled two scrimmages, but the head coach said that is subject to change as the team prepares for the Sept. 5th opener vs. Louisville.
In other news and notes:
*One of the new team members who has received praise from the coaches is juco transfer Jason Smith, who moved from quarterback to wide receiver in spring practice. In addition to learning to play a new position, he is learning up to line up in multiple spots in Malzahn’s offense and isn’t alone in the receiver group.
“We’re actually moving a lot of people around just for everybody to learn the whole offense,” the redshirt sophomore said. “We don’t have people learning just one position so we can get thrown in at any time of the game and know the plays and go at that position.”
Other than learning his assignments, what else is Smith concentrating on in preseason camp? “Just staying focused and fighting through adversity,” he said. “This is a long camp, and this is my first camp so everybody is fatigued and tired. We just have to fight through it.”
*Another former quarterback trying to position himself for playing time is Jonathan Wallace. The senior seems upbeat with how preseason is developing.
“It’s going great,” the senior said. “I’m thinking everybody is settling in now. I think that the biggest thing is everybody is playing with great effort. That is what coach really likes. Now it is just settling in, knowing what to do, where to line up and just really getting the young guys the experience they need.”
Wallace, a former starter at quarterback for the Tigers during the 2012 season, said, “I’m battling for a position every day. I’ve transitioned this past spring and now it is just a matter of going out and executing every day, showing the coaches they can trust me. It’s a trust deal. Coach Malzahn has set the tone for that. They have to count us to make plays. They have to count on us to execute out there, give great effort. If we can’t get that done, we can’t play. That’s the bottom line. That’s where that stands. I’m getting there.”
Junior wide receiver Tony Stevens has earned praise this week from both Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee for his improved performance in practice.
*Malzahn said the battle to be the No. 1 running back is a “very healthy competition” and noted that Roc Thomas, Jovon Robinson and Peyton Barber will get a chance to show what they can do on Saturday. Freshman running back Kerryon Johnson has a minor injury and could miss the scrimmage, but Malzahn noted the 2014 Alabama Mr. Football has a chance to contribute this fall based on his performance in practice. “Kerryon catches the ball extremely well,” Malzahn said.