Update No. 2, August 7: Alabama coach Nick Saban announced tonight that Jarran Reed and Brandon Ivory did what they were supposed to do and have returned to the team. They will go through a five-day acclimation period before fully re-join the team in fall camp.
End update No. 2
Update August 7: Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News reports that two of the three suspended players have returned to practice:
End update (original story follows):
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Nick Saban took to the podium on Friday at the start of the Crimson Tide’s fall camp preaching discipline, buying in and a challenge to “resurrect our identity in terms of what we want Alabama football to be.”
And if his point weren’t clear enough, his next statement was.
Saban announced that defensive linemen Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed, as well as sophomore linebacker/defensive end Tim Williams, were all suspended for “violation of team rules and policies.”
He didn’t go into any further detail regarding their transgressions (though Reed was recently arrested for DUI) and said that their return was conditional upon “completion of the requirement of what they have to do relative to their suspension.”
It’s obvious that Saban is putting his foot down early after a divided locker room and entitlement were cited for the two-game skid to end the 2013 season.
It also, though, leaves a few pretty big holes on defense, especially up front.
Nose tackle wasn’t really a strength last season, with the middle of the defense lacking the push it previously got from the likes of Jesse Williams, Josh Chapman and Terrence Cody.
Ivory is the returning starter, and Reed was expected to be his backup.
Both could be back before the season starts, and if so, all of this is moot. But if one or both have to miss playing time, it could mean some trouble up front.
Junior Darren Lake has played only sparingly during his career and had surgery on an injured pectoral muscle in the spring, though Saban says he is fully recovered. Another nose tackle from the spring, Dakota Ball, was experimenting with the tight ends at Friday’s practice.
Defensive end A’Shawn Robinson could slide into the middle in base, though it would limit the disruptiveness and productivity he flashed as a freshman a season ago, when he led Alabama with 5.5 sacks.
That normally would free up Williams, a 4-star defensive end out of high school, to build off of his freshman-year reserve duties, but he’s out indefinitely, too.
The talent is still there, though, to be a dominant group even without the trio. Allen joins Robinson as a rising sophomore who saw regular playing time as a freshman. D.J. Pettway is back after a year in junior college. Dalvin Tomlinson and Dee Liner were both 4-star recruits coming out of high school and will be sophomores in the fall.
Alabama would be in a tricky spot if one or all aren’t back by the West Virginia game. But if there’s one sport where Alabama could afford some discipline issues, it’s on the defensive line.
Other Notes from the Start of Fall Camp
Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who had spring surgery to repair ligament damage in his knee, was out on the practice field on Friday going through drills. Saban said he is doing straight-line running but is still working on cutting and changing direction.
“We're very encouraged with where he's at,” Saban said. “We're making no predictions about when he'll be able to get back and play. We're just going to evaluate him one day at a time and try to bring him along so that at some point in time he's going to be able to come back and contribute for us.”
Saban gave his criteria for what he’s looking for in the new quarterback.
“It's going to come down to, in my opinion, three things,” he said. “It's going to come down to the guy that can basically have the best judgement, decision-making, relative to doing what we need them to do. The guy that is most accurate in throwing the ball to the right place at the right time to give guys the opportunity to make plays, and their leadership to affect other people.
"Those are the three things that are the most important to me at this position right now, to see who can do that the best.”
The media got to see Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker throw for the first time, as Coker went through his first practice in an Alabama uniform. He sported the No. 14 he wore at Florida State, showing off his strong arm, while letting some sail on him, which is to be expected early on.
“He's a good guy,” running back T.J. Yeldon said. “He's different. He's from my area—Mobile area. So we've kind of bonded with each other. I had class with him. We just talked and stuff. It was good.”
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