Alabama Spring Game 2016: Recap, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 16, 2016

Apr 16, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end Hale Hentges (84) carries the ball after catching a pass in the annual A-day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

As the Alabama Crimson Tide prepare to defend their national title, A-Day took place in Tuscaloosa with the White squad knocking off the Crimson squad by a final score of 7-3. 

The final score was a secondary concern for 'Bama fans and head coach Nick Saban, as the team is looking to replace 11 total starters, including Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and quarterback Jake Coker as well as break in new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt after Kirby Smart left for Georgia. 

Fortunately for the Tide, their roster is stacked with talent every year. Alabama had the nation's best recruiting class in 2016, per 247Sports, to say nothing of key returning players like defensive end Jonathan Allen and standout offensive linemen Cam Robinson and Ross Pierschbacher. 

As is often the case when Alabama is involved, offense was difficult to come by. Both teams were scoreless in the first half, though at least the running back competition did yield some positive results early, per Michael Casagrande of the Birmingham News:

Michael Casagrande @ByCasagrande

Damien Harris 5 carries, 40 yards. Bo Scarbrough 2 carries, 4 yards.

Getting Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough carries will be integral because even though Alabama ran the ball 633 times in 2015, the bulk of those carries were reserved for Henry (395) and Kenyan Drake (77). Harris and Scarbrough combined for 64 attempts. 

Harris was the standout among the running backs during the game, with Charlie Walter of WSFA Channel 12 tweeting out the box score heading into the second half:

Charlie Walter @CharlieWalter22

Damien Harris is the lone positive thus far. And the defense, of course. #RollTide https://t.co/RhVEb4hpYU

But the key story for Alabama's offense on this day was quarterback Jalen Hurts. The true freshman lacks the experience of redshirt freshman Blake Barnett or junior Cooper Bateman, but his skill set adds a dynamic rarely seen from Crimson Tide signal-callers.

Hurts got to play hero in the fourth quarter, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Derek Kief. 

Per Saturday Down South, when looking at those three quarterbacks, Hurts was the one who earned the positive praise:

Saturday Down South @SDS

Bama QBs today: *Cooper Bateman missing on deep balls. *Jalen Hurts can flat-out run. *Blake Barnett bobbled snap, but no INTs.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted people in Tuscaloosa were gushing about Hurts while he was there:

Bruce Feldman @BruceFeldmanCFB

Heard a lot of good things about FR QB Jalen Hurts while down at #Alabama. Can see now why there's a lot of excitement about him.

Alabama's offense isn't always explosive, which is by Saban's design. Given how strong and powerful the Crimson Tide offensive line usually is as well as how big and physical their running backs tend to be, they usually like to pound opponents into submission. 

Hurts still has a long development road ahead of him, but his ability to create plays with his legs and use his arm to throw down the field could open things up for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin

No discussion of Alabama football would be complete without talking about the defense. Linebacker Rashaan Evans was a man possessed on the field, making 12 tackles in the first half. 

As noted by Meredith Hornsby of BamaHammer.com, Evans is still looking to move up the depth chart:

Merideth @DivineMrsMH

Most other teams in the country, Rashaan Evans would be a starter with 7 tackles today. At Bama, he's 2nd team.

Evans figures to take on an important role this season, especially with Reggie Ragland departing for the NFL.

Charlie Potter of 247Sports noted that Saban said it was "really important" to get Evans significant reps at inside linebacker on Saturday. 

Despite some sloppy play on offense, Alabama should feel confident about where things stand right now. Saban and the coaching staff have more than four months to figure out the quarterback situation, but their defense still looks fantastic. 

No one recruits like Saban, so even in a year in which 'Bama has to replace so many starters, there is so much high-ceiling depth in place that they will be ready to defend their crown this fall. 

Post-Game Reaction

In true Saban fashion, there was very little excitement or enthusiasm shown to the media. He did note that nothing major was determined on Saturday, per 247Sports' Charlie Potter:

Charlie Potter @Charlie_Potter

Saban: "I don't think any conclusions can be drawn from anything that happened today."

There was one lighthearted moment as Saban addressed Barnett using him as a shield to avoid a sack on the field. Given rules of the spring game, in which quarterbacks don't get touched, Barnett was ruled to be down anyway, leading to the interpretation Alabama's head coach took down his quarterback. 

Here was Saban's comment about that moment, per Potter:

Charlie Potter @Charlie_Potter

Nick Saban: "This was a really outstanding day for me personally."

Getting back to business as usual, per Potter, Saban did discuss some of the problems he saw with his offense:

Charlie Potter @Charlie_Potter

Saban: "A little disappointing, the offensive false starts and penalties and those types of things."

Saban did not try to tip his hand in any way about how things are leaning with the quarterback position, per Alex Byington of the Times Daily:

Alex Byington @_AlexByington

Saban on QBs: "There were some good plays made by the quarterbacks, ... and I saw some things we could do better."

Things with Saban are always going to be difficult and complex, at least to the outside world. He's from the Bill Belichick school of saying nothing. It makes for dry reading, but has led to plenty of success for Alabama.