TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—The weather was much nicer for Alabama’s second and final scrimmage of fall camp inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
After a soaking wet game simulation last week, the Crimson Tide worked under partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 90 degrees on Saturday. It was another closed affair, with only members of select booster clubs being let in for the scrimmage.
And things are heating up on the field with just under two weeks to go until Alabama’s season opener against West Virginia. The Crimson Tide will have Sunday and Monday off before finishing up fall camp next week and starting game preparations the following Monday.
First, though, here are some takeaways, and the complete (released) stats from Alabama’s scrimmage.
Running back Kenyan Drake had another big day on the ground and through the air.
A week after totaling 153 yards and a score, Drake once again led the wide receivers with three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, which included a 65-yard score.
"He's done a good job today. I think he caught three or four passes today. He did a good job and had a couple runs," Saban said after the scrimmage in a press conference streamed live on RollTide.com. "Statistics don't always tell the truth, but Kenyan Drake has been doing a really good job. He made a 65-yard catch today for a touchdown. He's been doing a really good job for us."
Drake’s preseason success is a good sign for the Alabama running game, which already boasts two great options in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.
Yeldon and Henry are more than serviceable backs, but Drake’s elite speed easily makes him the most explosive of the group. The pass-catching acumen he’s shown during the spring also adds another dynamic to a passing game already loaded with weapons.
It looked like Drake would be in the doghouse heading into 2014 after his four fumbles last season and a July arrest for crossing crime scene tape. If his scrimmage performances are any indication, he’s set to be a key performer on offense.
Special teams improving
If you had to point out the biggest weakness for Alabama heading into the season, special teams would have been the runaway answer.
The Crimson Tide lost four-year starter Cody Mandell and punter, and a poor spring game gave fans little reason to trust redshirt sophomore kicker Adam Griffith. But, according to Saban, it’s been an area of improvement.
“The specialists were really good today,” Saban said. “The punting was good. Griff was really good on field goals—I don’t know if he was 4-for-4 or 5-for-5 or something like that and actually probably made a 42-, 47-, 45-yarder, couple of them. We punted the ball effectively. So the special teams part of it was good. I was encouraged by the specialists and the progress we made on special teams.”
Quarterbacks: Sims playing faster than Coker
Saban, as expected, chose not to release passing stats, like he did last week.
He said Jacob Coker and Blake Sims both got equal first-team reps, and each had their ups and downs. Saban is, though, noticing an advantage Sims has over Coker.
“I do think Blake probably is playing a little faster right now, been in the system longer, has better understanding, has a little bit more rhythm,” he said. “I think sometimes Jake is still trying to feel his way. He made some real significant strides at practice this week and really had some really good practices, so that's still going to be a competitive situation and until somebody clearly wins the job, we're not going to make a decision."
Nobody really expected Saban to name a starting quarterback before the start of the regular season, but the race is shaping up to be tighter than some thought.
Coker hasn’t come in and stolen the job from Sims—or if he is, Saban isn’t letting on—like many thought he would. It’s looking like a very real possibility that Alabama plays both quarterbacks in the season opener and into the regular season.
The following stats were provided by UA after the scrimmage. They include 11-on-11 work, situational drills, red-zone, goal-line and two-minute drills. Again, no quarterback stats were provided.
Tyren Jones: 12 carries, 44 yards, 1 touchdown
Altee Tenpenny: 10 carries, 12 yards, 1 touchdown
Kenyan Drake: 3 catches, 77 yards, 1 touchdown
ArDarius Stewart: 3 catches, 68 yards
Amari Cooper: 5 catches, 63 yards, 1 touchdown
Cam Sims: 2 catches, 53 yards, 1 touchdown
Chris Black: 5 catches, 46 yards, 1 touchdown
Trey DePriest: 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Dillon Lee: 6 tackles, 1 sack
Jonathan Allen: 4 tackles, 2 sacks
Landon Collins: 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass break-ups