Alabama Football: What To Watch at Crimson Tide's A-Day Game

Walter KirkwoodAnalyst IApril 14, 2010

Alabama still has many star players remaining from their '09 National Championship team.  While those guys will be fun to watch the real game is looking for new stars on the rise.    

With that in mind here's a primer of things to watch for at Alabama's A-Day game. 

DB's Robert Lester and Rod Woodson:
Both players are battling it out for the starting safety spot,  both players are big and athletic,  both can hit.   It should be a show Saturday and the battle may rage on through the fall.

DB's DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton:
The likely starters are Burton Scott and Phelon Jones, two guys who we have seen before.  These two true freshman were highly rated recruits but today are unknown quantities.  Both are likely one turned ankle away from being true freshman starters in the SEC.  Just how good are they?

DL Kerry Murphy:
The big man now has a year of the Scott Cochran treatment under his belt.  Can he regain the moves that made him one of the nation's top defensive lineman in high school?  Murphy is not likely to overtake his teammate Josh Chapman for the starting job, but no other defensive lineman has his combination of size and quickness.

DL Undra Billingsley: 
Billingsley started at defensive end,  redshirted all last  year at tight end, then returned to defensive end.  Some expected the position move to be the beginning of the end for Billingsley, yet instead he has been the surprise of the spring earning a spot as high as second string.  This will be our first chance to see why.

DL Darrington Sentimore:
Sentimore's recruitment was white hot last year after he dominated in the Louisiana State Playoffs.  LSU put on the full court press but Sentimore stuck with Saban who wanted him before everyone else.   Sentimore is a pure pass rushing end and I'm hoping he will develop along the same lines as Marcell Darius.

LB Tana Patrick:
All year I've been hearing how good this guy is going to be.  With Nico Johnson banged up this may be Tana's chance to shine.   

LB Jarrell Harris:
Ok....I realize no other current player has carried the “what happened to him?” flag more than Harris,  but let's face it, we all want to see this guy succeed.  If for no other reason than to piss off our Auburn friends.  

Harris was originally considered an Auburn lock, so when Alabama signed him it struck a raw nerve.  So much so that some unscrupulous individuals who had some loose connection to that school down on the plains (allegedly) cooked up a scheme to get Harris in trouble.   

It's unfortunate that the plan worked, but the fact that they would go to such lengths illustrates just how badly they wanted him, and how much it hurt when he rolled with the tide.   

After several years of Harris washing out, it seemed Auburn fans might have the last laugh.  Few players will have a rooting section quite like Harris Saturday.  But aside from the fan hysteria that comes with the territory in the SEC.  Harris has rare athletic ability.  If Saban can focus that ability Alabama will have a very dangerous weapon on defense.

LB Ed Stinson:
One of the first recruits Saban signed specifically for the jack linebacker position.  He has little chance of overtaking Courtney Upshaw, but is he the next great jack linebacker?  

QB Phillip Sims:
We've seen McElroy, he's undefeated and wearing championship rings.  We've seen McCarron, we all feel he's ready should something happen to McElory.  True freshman Phillip Sims is the one I'm curious to see.  Alabama has signed other highly rated quarterbacks before, but Sims is from out of state.  He represents a shift in recruiting reach for the Alabama program.

RB Demetrius Goode:
Goode piled on some muscle this year and is up to 220 lbs.  He was already fast,  After several years in the shadows is he going to surprise everyone and get some playing time?  Or is freshman Eddie Lacy going to force him back?

WR Kevin Norwood:
I've heard nothing but good about this kid.  It's time to see the goods.  Could Norwood finally be the answer to take some pressure off of Julio Jones?

OL DJ Fluker:
This is from the “Duuu” department.  The guy is 6'6”, 340 lbs, and that's AFTER losing the baby fat.  Now that he's running first string.  He's a side show all by himself.   

OL Chance Warmack:
Warmack has been in a rough and tumble battle with John Michael Boswell, Anthony Steen, and even Alfred McCullough for the open guard spot.  Warmack has been on top most often but this may be round one of a longer war. 

The Crowd:
In Nick Saban's first spring Alabama fans without any advanced planning or intent filled Bryant Denny Stadium to its capacity.  In fact estimates are that over 10,000 fans were turned away and flowed over the campus like a tidal wave. 

Other schools have attempted to duplicate this feat via planning and marketing.  Alabama fans did this spontaneously and without notice.  

For those who witnessed the events of that day it is spoken of with reverence, like former hippies speak of Woodstock.   It was amazing to watch administrators open one section after another as they filled to capacity.   Soon word came through the stands that they had to shut the doors and folks were still coming.    

When Nick Saban emerged with his team from the locker room it was pretty much like a fall game day crowed.   When Nick took the Alabama job I think he viewed it simply as his next job.  On that day, I believe he began to realize that he might be in a special place, at a special time.  I believe the events of the last two years have confirmed that for everyone.  

Also on that day most of what would become Alabama's first number one rated recruiting class were on hand to witness this explosion of fan enthusiasm.   It affected each and every one of them.  Just a few years later they were all standing in Pasadena with the National Championship trophy. 

The coaches and players earned it all, but on that day I believe the fans themselves made a difference in how the next few years would go and in a small way they helped earn that National Championship. 

Saturday will be another chance for Alabama fans to prove they are the most dedicated or obsessed in college football.


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