With the Hokies now just 29 days away, the two-time defending National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide took to the practice field for the first time in the fall of 2013.
The stories of the day centered around a position change (albeit temporary), an incoming freshman not being cleared medically, and an impressive incoming class garnering attention.
The Tide split the day into two sessions, with veterans going in the morning and new comers hitting the field in the evening. In the morning the story was DE LaMichael Fanning getting work on the offensive side of the ball at tigh tend. Fanning is a monster who would provide an imposing, nasty blocker to contend with, and reportedly also has a good set of hands, but in post practice comments Alabama head coach Nick Saban said the move was a five day experiment. The move could either be testimony to Alabama’s depth on the defensive line or their interest in fortifying the tight end position. Sophomore TE Malcolm Faciane was reported as being dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons, though Saban indicated the door is still open for him to return if he completes the requirements set before him.
Jalston Fowler appeared in good shape, fully recovered from last year’s season ending knee injury. His work came at H-back. Other players returning from injury, receivers DeAndrew White (knee) and Kenny Bell (leg) were back in the mix fueling what is easily the most talented corps of receivers in Bama football history. Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood, Christion Jones, Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White, Chris Black, and now Robert Foster, Raheem Falkins and Ardarius Stewart…a simply ridiculous collection of receivers on one team.
Cyrus Jones remained on defense at corner, whom Coach Saban refered to as “athletic.” Jones spent time at receiver last season. Staying in the secondary, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix referred to sophomore Landon Collins as “dominant.” The Tide secondary returns Clinton-Dix, Vinnie Sunseri and Geno Smith, with Landon Collins, Nick Perry, Deion Belue and John Fulton stepping into the mix this season.
Dee Hart, recovered from his 2012 knee injury, joined TJ Yeldon and Kenyon Drake with the running backs. In the evening session, monster runningback Derrick Henry (“the bigger, faster Trent Richardson”) was flanked by Altee Tenpenny (wearing #23), Alvin Kamara (#26), and Tyren Jones (#20). Further fueling the Richardson comparisons, Henry, of course, is wearing #3.
Other notables, Blake Sims and Alec Morris look the part in battling to become AJ McCarron’s back up at QB. Both bring different things to the table, but Morris is a mountain in the pocket with an arm to match. Sims, whose talent wasn’t showcased in the A-Day game, brings a rushing attack not seen in Tuscaloosa from that position in a while.
Finally, the benchmark for all incoming classes under Saban is 2008’s crop of freshman. But from several sources, this one may just surpass that one. The level of talent on this team is unreal. Will they capitalize on one of the most favorable schedules in recent history? That journey begins in 29 days, led by the best coach the game has seen in this generation.
Some notable quotes from the day:
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, on defensive adjustments for no huddle teams they’ll face: “We’re a very conditioned team. We work on that. If that’s what it is, we’ll be ready.”
Cyrus Kouandjio, on leaders on the Tide’s revamped offensive line: “Anthony Steen, of course. He’s a veteran. Ryan Kelly and my brother (Arie Kouandjio). Those guys have a lot of passion and others follow.”
Nick Saban, on being tabbed at #1 in the USA Today preseason poll: “Any preseason poll really doesn’t mean a lot. We appreciate the recognition. But the fact of the matter is that every team is doing exactly what we are doing right now. There’s no teams that have accomplished anything right now.”
Finally, Coach Saban reported that that Darius Page did not pass his physical and was forced to give up football. He is expected to stay in school on medical scholarship.