In a wild stretch of my imagination, I'm going to attempt to pull your undivided attention away from the basketball search and look at football for just a minute. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to discuss what my thoughts are on Anthony Grant and the latest headlines about the coaching search—but, after all, we are a football school, eh?
In all honesty, and it is pretty much what was expected, not a lot changed in the last 10 days. The Tide resumed practice today and worked once again on the fundamentals that our staff stresses with the first few days of each spring camp. It looks like it'll be mid-week, maybe the end of the week, before the players get into the nuts and bolts of preparation for the fall of 2009.
“The purpose of spring ball is to give every member on the team the best chance to be successful, I’d say that’s the No. 1 goal,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “Knowledge, technique, what to do, how to do it, why it’s important to do it that way. I think for every player that’s critical.”
On the suspension front, nothing has changed since Coach Nick Saban announced in his press conference last Friday that Prince Hall and Brandon Fanney were suspended. While the length of Fanney's suspension is not known, he wasn't a part of the drills this afternoon and the Thomas-Drew practice facility.
The experiments, or one might use the word "shuffles," continue on the offensive line. Much like we alluded to in the report on day one, it's something we should expect for a good portion of the spring camp.
Meet Coach Sal.
Ok, so we knew that Coach Saban was demanding.
We knew Coach Saban hired assistants the fit his demeanor, his personality, and is work ethic. But, did the players know what they were getting into when Coach Sal took over?"
The media got the first glimpse of the intensity he brings to the coaching position today, albeit a brief look.
The players? They might wish they were as fortunate.
One thing is to be assured, there has been a coaching upgrade with the Alabama linebacking corps and it'll be seen with the intensity the unit brings this season.
Brandon Fanney wasn't practicing with the group today. In a few of the drills observed Don'ta Hightower had moved to the JACK position. While he's getting reps today at the JACK position, it's certainly not a move that is expected to be a permanent position change. (As a side observation, I thought I noticed Ivan Matchett running drills with the linebackers today. It was someone wearing the same number he has. At this point, yet to be confirmed.)
Jerrell Harris was getting reps at both the inside and outside positions today. When Coach Saban announced he'd be getting a look at the inside linebacker position it was an indication we were starting to get some versatility in our linebacking corps. Adding to that thought, when Don'ta was outside we saw Cory Reamer working inside. Having a group of linebackers that are interchangeable in position provides a lot of flexibility depth wise.
On the other hand imagine yourself as someone studying film and reading the linebacking set. Yeah. You can see it as well, can't you?
Friday, a week ago, sophomore John Michael Boswell and junior college transfer James Carpenter worked at left tackle while senior lineman Brian Motley and junior lineman David Ross lined up at right guard. Today included a few shuffles with Alfred McCullough getting some reps at the tackle position.
"He has long arms, good feet and he's very athletic, so we may even look at him at tackle some... He (McCullough) had a really good off-season, he's very athletic, probably a little bit more athletic and explosive than some of our other guys."
Coach Saban went on to note it's hard to evaluate how a group is progressing when they are just in "shorts and helmets," but it doesn't take a seasoned reporter to notice he was pleased with the progress he's seen so far on the offensive line. Along with a few others, he had encouraging remarks about Carpenter and Warmack, the two new players that joined the Tide this winter.
"We've been really pleased with the two newcomers. [JuCo transfer tackle] James Carpenter did a really good job and looks like he has some potential to be a guy that can make a contribution in some way," Saban said. Chance Warmack, for a young guy, can strike and has some power and size and can bend and explode. Those two guys are very, very helpful, I think, in terms of depth and competition in that group.
"Tyler Love has made a significant amount of improvement, Drew Davis and Mike Johnson are both back and both are providing good leadership...Vlachos has done a really good job at center so far."
Depth at running back?
While all the attention right now is placed on how the quarterback position is going to pan out, you can easily see there isn't a lot of satisfaction with what we return in our running back unit.
Numbers? Sure, we've got them.
Experienced depth? A resounding no.
Before spring camp, it's a position I didn't pay a lot of attention to specifically. Now, going into the fall camp you have to wonder if Saban's remarks in his press conference were meant to realistically address the situation or inspire players to "step up."
It appears the speculation that Terry Grant might transfer can be put to rest. I'll admit, I was one that thought there was a good chance he might. But, the staff seems determined to find a role for him this fall.
"Terry Grant has been very, very good in two practices. So, we are hopeful that he is going to be one of those guys that can help us in developing a role that's going to add to our team," Saban said. "Maybe in a different way to the guys we had last year, but some kind of way."
The Tide returns for their third practice Wednesday afternoon.