Alabama Practice Impressions

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Some of the best in Alabama are playing on one team this week in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and numerous guys stood out on Wednesday.

It would be easy to start with Reuben Foster, the top linebacker in the country, but lets start off with an athlete that is going to shine for Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

  • McGill-Toolen quaterback Jason Smith will play wide receiver in this game and he will play wide receiver and he may be used in other ways in Malzahn's offense at Auburn. Smith looked very comfortable at receiver on Wednesday. It looks like he barely touches the ground when moving so swiftly. He is so quick, but what stood out was how natural he looked catching the football. It is going to be what he does once he has the ball in hands that makes him so dangerous on the next level. He is amazing in space and Malzahn has to be very excited about having him to work with in the future.

  • OK, lets talk Reuben Foster. He can hit, everyone knows that, and oh yeah, he can catch. He ran 40 yards down the field with a slot receiver and took the ball away from him in the air for an interception during pass skeleton on Wednesday. Foster looks in much better shape than he did in July at The Opening. He was a little heavy then, and he was not quite as explosive early in the season, but that has all changed. He looks to be between 235-240 pounds and he was back to how one of the top prospects in the country looked a year ago on Wednesday. He knocked a wide receiver down with one hand after batting the ball away about 15 yards down the field and one of the coaches said, "Keep him up," referring to the wide receiver, and Foster said, "I was just knocking the ball down." He is just on a different level and it will be interesting to see which college he is playing for next fall. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Washington, and others are in the mix.

  • Auburn commitment Jeremy Johnson was throwing some beautiful passes. He was really spinning the ball well, throwing very catchable passes, and the deep balls we very impressive. The timing was not perfect after just one day of practices, but you could tell he was very comfortable with fellow Auburn commitments Earnest Robinson and Jason Smith. He knows Cameron Echols-Luper, son of former Auburn coach Curtis Luper very well too, so he was at ease at QB.

  • The defensive line is impressive. Anchoring that unit is Auburn commitment Dee Liner and Alabama commitment Darius Paige. Liner has that initial burst off the line and he was spending a lot of time in the backfield on Wednesday. He is such an explosive player and as he matures physically and adds weight, he could be a nightmare at 3-technique on the next level. Paige is the bigger body, he is heavier, and not quite as disruptive, but he has a lot of upside. He does not play with the same leverage at Liner and he is not as quick to the gap, but he he creates good separation with his length, and he is only going to get better. He just uses his size to help take over now, but his best football is definitely ahead of him.

  • At defensive back, a trio of guys stood out for different reasons. Ardarius Stewart could possibly be the top wideout on the field, but he is playing free safety, and he is doing it very well. He is very instinctive in the secondary and he is a very explosive player. He closes on the ball well and he knows how to track it. Florida State commitment Marquez White has a lot of upside. He is very thin, he is not strong in press coverage, and he he can get out-muscled for the ball, but he is very long, he has great short-space quickness, and he going to get better as he gets stronger and coaching at corner. Jonathan Cook is committed to Nebraska, but will he stay with the Cornhuskers? Tennessee offered him on Wednesday morning and Auburn could be next. He is another corner with good size and he has really come on strong over the last couple of months. He is very physical and he is best when playing close to the line, but he can also recover down the field.

  • Do not sleep on Jarren Johnson. Not a lot of big offers on the table right now, but he is a very productive player. He may not be six feet tall and he may not be a sub 4.5 guy in the 40 yard dash, but he gets open, he is very strong, he plays like a running back when he gets the ball, and he is going to make someone better when they sign him.

    Chad Simmons is currently a National Recruiting Analyst for FOX Sports/Scout. He started with Scout in 2003 and then moved on to another Recruiting Service from 2004-2008 before returning to Scout the first of 2009 to become South Recruiting Manager.
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