Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer) Though Nick Saban is the first to say that this A Day game was just another practice, there was still much to enjoy and analyze from the game like atmosphere of 93,000+ fans in the stands, band music in the air and tailgaters galore.
Saban even wore a nice looking suit this year instead of awful light blue jacket we all hope he burned after last year's game.
The surprises were many because the coaches just love to experiment in the spring. Switching players sometimes gives the coaches a view of something that need to fill a gap or need on the team.
That's why you didn't see Jesse Williams, "The Awesome Aussie" at nose guard. There is just too much great talent at that spot right now. Josh Chapman has proven that he's the man and Nick Gentry has proven to be a great backup.
Where does that leave Williams?
Bama has a big desire to be a bigger, meaner, cause a quarterback to have nightmares kind of pass rushing monster this year. That was missing from last year. So why not try the Australian Annihilator at the pass rushing end position and see what he can do from there.
He proved that he can do this and that's something that defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart and Saban will keep in their back pocket as the season goes on.
According to Saban, another surprise was the cool command and good play of third string QB Blake Sims, who in his post game news conference called out as a pleasant surprise. "He brings a skill set that maybe the other quarterbacks don't have, coming from a spread offense." Saban said of the "other" Sims. "He's more of an option type quarterback and looked good."
Last season Blake mimicked the athletic spread type quarterbacks and had his own athletic abilities to do a great job of it. Saban had said last year that it was sometimes "scary" not to have at least two solid backup quarterbacks, and this year he feels very comfortable should a starter be hurt.
As for the so called quarterback battle, though Saban and the staff are trying to make a PR statement that the job is "wide open", the truth is, that McCarron has the job based on Saban's own criteria of, "faith, trust and confidence".
Sims turns the ball over a little too much to meet that criteria and Saban and McCarron have a deeper relationship than most realize.
McCarron would have had to have been a total disaster and Sims would have had to be the second coming of Jesus with a helmet for McCarron to lose the starting job. As it was, the two did almost the same stats, though McCarron did did have the only TD passes and did look much more in command.
A mis-snap at the one cost him one TD as Vlachos misheard the cadence and snapped the ball too early as he explained later.
McCarron, completed 21 of 38 overall attempts for 222 yards, two long drives drives, one TD pass and an interception. Sims, meanwhile, was 19 of 38 for 229 yards and one interception just two more completions than Sims in the same number of passes.
So the quarterback battle proved to be a surprise in that there was no surprise at all. Bleacher Report will have an article later in the week that describes the how and why of the quarterback battle being all but over before it ever began.
One reason that the QB's failed to shine was the surprising work of the defense. The Tide started the season with a goal of becoming a sack machine.
They ended the day with eight sacks, something unheard of last season despite this being the most veteran offensive line in years. Brandon Lewis was the only defender with two sacks while a now healthy Dont’a Hightower drew the praise from Saban.
“I feel a lot better. I just feel like my old self,” Hightower said. I’m back in shape and my weight is down, and I’m playing a lot faster. It feels great after all the hard work I put in.”
Hightower's three quarterback hurries complimented his six tackles and one sack. Linebackers Ranzell Watkins, C.J. Mosley and Chris Jordan each had nine tackles to top the stats.
Lastly was the biggest surprise of the day for most spectators, they saw seven running backs handle the ball and all look great.
Richardson may have won the MVP of the A Day Game and deservedly so, but Lacy and Dee Hart showed Alabama will have will have more than a one - two punch at running back. They have as many five solid running backs should they need to go that deep.
As for the ugly, Cade Foster was supposed to have come in and nailed down the kicking job. But his two misses were just ugly. Clearly he has the leg for those kicks, but not the eye. One missed wide left, the other wide right.
The punting is still inconsistent as well.
And Now for the Winners, A Day Award Winners were:
Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award: Josh Chapman, Dont'a Hightower.
Jerry Duncan "I Like to Practice" Award: Brad Smelley, Damion Square, Brandon Gibson.
Billy Neighbors Defensive Lineman Award: Ed Stinson.
Paul Crane Offensive Lineman Award: William Vlachos.
Bobby Johns Defensive Back Award: DeQuan Menzie.
Johnny Musso Offensive Back Award: Eddie Lacy.
Ray Perkins Receiver Award: Darius Hanks, Marquis Maze.
Woodrow Lowe Linebacker Award: C.J. Mosley.
Derrick Thomas Community Service Award: Nico Johnson, Tana Patrick.
Bear Bryant Outstanding Non-Scholarship Award: Hardie Buck, Will Lowery.
Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman Award: Adrian Hubbard, Jarrick Williams, DeAndrew White, Phillip Sims.
Bart Starr Most Improved Player Award: AJ McCarron, Anthony Steen, Jerrell Harris, Dre Kirkpatrick.
Mal Moore Leadership Award: Barrett Jones, Mark Barron.
Sylvester Croom Commitment to Excellence Award: Trent Richardson, Courtney Upshaw.
Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the A-Day Game Award: Barrett Jones.
Dixie Howell Memorial Most Valuable Player of the A-Day Game Award: Trent Richardson.