A-Day gives fans new reasons to panic

ITKWith the conclusion of another A-Day game in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide put a wrap on its 2015 spring practice, thus opening the door for rampant speculation in the months between now and fall camp.

Both supporters and detractors will look at last Saturday’s scrimmage game and become engrossed in the discussion concerning Bama’s strengths and weaknesses. Afterall, Bama lost 60% of its offensive line to graduation. Not to mention a Heisman runner-up and its most prolific passer in decades (at least in terms of single-season stats).

But is it really that deep? Can you really take away anything from A-Day? If your quarterback throws a volley of touchdowns, does that mean he’s that good, or does it mean your secondary is terrible? When the most explosive player you have on offense dons a black, no-contact jersey, can you really determine anything about your running game? And when 8-9 starters or contributors don’t even participate, what really can you glean?

Here’s what I did take away.

Bama’s defensive line is ridiculous. This defense is totally built to stop the LSU’s, Arkansas’ and Georgia’s then turn around the next week and stop the silly, sissy offenses like Auburn and Texas A&M. Show me a deeper front four/five in college football.

Likewise, the linebackers have star potential. It’s just dumb to draw comparisons to the 2011 unit, but you can see hints of that kind of talent all over the field. Reggie Ragland plays the part of Dont’a Hightower, and plays it well. But the fear factor for opposing offenses will be Reuben Foster. Good grief it’s criminal how hard he hits people. Denzel Devall, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Dillon Lee, and surprise freshman Keith Holcombe are more than able to plug into the mix. And with Bama’s depth on the defensive line, and versatility at defensive end (with quick-twitch rushers like Rashaan Evans and Tim Williams), the Tide’s front seven will be more than a challenge.

The secondary is finally returning to form. Eddie Jackson at safety just makes sense, and does early enrollee, freshman Ronnie Harrison. Very seldom does a player step on the field and look the part, but Harrison looks and plays like a junior. Cyrus Jones will secure one corner spot, with more than enough candidates ready to take the other. Geno Smith, Bradley Sylve, Marlon Humphrey, Maurice Smith, Hootie Jones and (my favorite) Tony Brown step in to round out the defensive unit, making it potentially as good as any we’ve seen in the Nick Saban era in Tuscaloosa.

bsadayOn the other side of the ball, there is reason for concern. Last spring, Blake Sims left the A-Day game as the clear favorite with a solid, impressive performance that left every Alabama fan breathing easy.

Wait, no he didn’t.

Last spring, Blake Sims was terrible in the A-Day game, leaving Bama fans hungering for transfer Jacob Coker. I would argue that Coker and freshman David Cornwell looked better on Saturday than Sims did in the game a year ago. All Sims did was go on from there to break almost every single-season passing record at Alabama under the tutilege of Lane Kiffin, who upon last check is still wearing his signature long-sleeves on the Bama sideline. Whoever emerges as the starter will win the luxury of having that same tutilege, with the best offensive mind in the game today calling the plays for him.

Coker showed signs of promise, though his slow delivery is a concern. But then again, Tim Tebow had the slowest wind-up I’d ever seen at the time. He was pretty good in college. Cornwell showed promise as well. The game isn’t over, but conventional wisdom is it’s a three person race, with Alec Morris or Cooper Bateman taking the third spot. Neither Morris nor Bateman seemed to separate themselves from one another in Saturday’s scrimmage, while freshman phenom Blake Barnett showed he has a future, but needs time with Scott Cochran.

At runningback Derrick Henry looks to be the man, flanked by the playmaking abilities of the Drake. Tide runningbacks coach Burton Burns has to produce a third back, however for the rigors of SEC play. Ronnie Clark looked the part, but after that it gets sketchy. The suspension of Tyren Jones and the injury to Bo Scarborough left its mark on the Tide’s backfield. Someone’s got to step up, be it Clark, DeSherrius Flowers or the incoming Damien Harris. Someone will have a grand opportunity for carries in upcoming season.

I don’t know if you know this or not, but the Tide receiving corps took a hit last season losing Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White. However, Robert Foster showed Saturday why he was considered a top prospect out of high school. He could draw comparisons to the impact of another #8 in recent history at Alabama. Fultondale’s Adarius Stewart is simply a playmaker, primed to take a leading role in the Tide’s passing game. The same is true for Chris Black, who some said was as good or better than Cooper before an injury sidelined him. Look, it’s Auburn-esque delusion to suggest anyone on the Tide’s roster is better than Amari Cooper, but it’s equal orange and blue wishful thinking to think there aren’t playmakers all over the field, because there are. Raheem Falkins, Derek Kief and incoming Calvin Ridley and speedster Daylon Charlot will provide plenty of options, as well as Cam Sims when he’s able to return from injury.

On the offensive line, Bama did lose 3 out of 5 starters. But they return the two most important in Cam Robinson (left tackle) and Ryan Kelly (center). With the vanilla playcalling and blocking schemes typically employed in a spring game, and facing the best defensive line in college football, this one is the hardest to call. But, I’m not losing any sleep over it.

dhadayOn special teams, JK Scott could (and probably should be allowed to) be punting in the NFL right now. Adam Griffith connected on a couple of kicks, but lost footing on another, while shanking yet another. It’d be nice to get that part of the unit shored up before the Tide’s trip to Athens next October.

All in all, what I saw from the spring game is about what you see from a spring game. Glasses half full and half empty all over the field. The best I’ve ever felt after a spring game came in 2013. Bama fell horribly short for a threepeat. The worst I’ve felt about a spring game in the Nick Saban era was last spring. Bama went on to become the first ever #1 seed in the first ever college football playoff.

So who knows. I do know this. In 2015 the Tide will be dang good once again, and it’ll take every team they face everything they have to beat them, regardless of where that game is played. And, as a Tide fan and alum, that’s the kind of panic I’m glad we don’t have to worry about.


(Follow ITK on Twitter for Bama news, commentary and smack.)

18 Comments

Add Yours
  1. 1
    Ricky B

    It’s getting time for a little ‘Roll’ and a little ‘Tide’….

    Roll Tide motherfuckers!

    Get used to hearing it!

  2. 2
    Ricky B

    It’s getting time for a little ‘Roll’ and a little ‘Tide’….

    Roll Tide motherfuckers!

    Get used to hearing it!

  3. 3
    Hunter Ford

    Spring games are just glorified practice that gives fans a chance to come out to the stadium on a nice spring day, and wonder and hope about the season to come.

    I believe Alabama will be tough to beat this season

    Coker will be QB and will be at least as good as Simms was last year

    Henry will truck over a lot of people on the way to a big big season

    The defensive line has been called the best D line unit in the country by some talking head on Finebaum, whose name escapes me

    If the secondary improves and if we don’t have to win games with field goals, we have a shot at another SEC and potentially another national championship

    RTR

  4. 4
    RollTide

    Aubie A-Day

    97 total plays – 605 yards

    6.2 yds. per play

    Bam A-Day

    123 total plays – 442 yards

    3.6 yds. per play

    I’ll take our D any day.

      • 6
        Crimsonite

        One turnover by the #1 QB against the nations best defense, dumbass. What turnovers are you referring Focking Biotch?

        • 7
          peachy

          What turnovers? Just the 7 total Alabama had in their Spring Game. And if you think its not a problem I would suggest looking back at last season. Its a huge problem and if its not fixed Alabama will be taking a few losses again this year. Alabama won the turnover battle in only ONE game last year. This years schedule is much, much tougher.

          • 8
            Crimsonite

            You’re a fuking idiot. What did I just tell you asshole? One fuking pass interception by the first string offense. No fuking fumbles by the RB’s. We don’t give a shit what the scrubs did, or how many other interceptions the 3 backup QB’s playing on the White offense behind Coker against possibly the nations best defense, nor the ones playing on the scrub Crimson offense threw. AJ threw 3 interceptions in the 2011 Spring Game. How did that turn out for you? You need to get your shit straight or just shut your cum collector. Bama won the turnover battle in 3 games and tied in 3 games. In all but a couple of games the margin was only minus one, which was good enough to beat your asses 55-44 and A&M 59-0 and Missouri 42-13, etc. Bama’s minus turnover margin was NOT a product of the offense. It was a defense that couldn’t hold up their end of the deal. That won’t be a problem this year. You need to worry about your own damn team who’s had the SEC’s most embarrassing defense for 8 years now, and I’ll guarantee you that patchwork coaching staff is not going to change shit in their first year with a new system. You think J.Johnson is all that? You better be wondering why he couldn’t score shit against the worst defense in the conference. Why don’t you go suck cock with your Barnfart buddies.

          • 9
            nope

            @peachy

            You talk like the turnovers mean Alabama is bad.

            But I don’t expect you to actually know anything about Alabama.

            Did you know that turnovers have been coached to be an indentifier for the Alabama defense this year, that turnovers are their outlying goal?

            No?

            Aw, that’s too bad.

            I saw 6 turnovers on good plays by the defense rather than simply bad offensive mistakes. I’m sure you think that’s “biased Bammer speak,” but I just wanted to fill you in on the goals of the defense and how the turnovers were perhaps the most glaring aspect in terms of positive performance changes in the A-Day game.

  5. 10
    Billy

    “… and its most prolific passer in decades (at least in terms of single-season stats). Y’all still don’t want to give that kid his due. One season at a time is all any of them did. One season at a time. There’s no asterisk beside the stat that Blake Sims IS the most prolific passer in THE HISTORY OF ALABAMA FOOTBALL. Choke on it, but it’s FACT!!!

  6. 12
    Bamaengineer

    I wasn’t impressed at all. That might have been the most confused bunch and disorganized bunch I’ve seen since 2007. I’m pretty sure my St. Pauls bunch could have beaten them by 2 tds. Hope I’m wrong!

  7. 13
    John S.

    I do not quite understand why some people say ” Do not be worried about the bad things, it’s just a practice game” , but then they turn around and say ” Our D looks great , should be a great season.” . Is it a practice game, or should we think what we seen ( good or bad) could be a sign of things to come? To be honest, I think there should still be concerned with our O-line, and Secondary. I also believe that Henry is a #2 back at best. I have not seen anything that says he should start in front of Drake. Linebackers will knock your head off, but at what cost? Foster appears to be better at keeping his head up , but will he be able to shake his bad habits for the entire season? Now as far as QB , Coker can not be feeling much confidence right now. All this talk of the OSU QB transferring has got to be an issue with him right now.

    • 14
      Crimsonite

      Why? Because Drake has never run over anybody in his life. When he has to get the tough yards – you can forget it. He’s a scat back, and that’s it. Bama has to establish the inside game, the power running game to be the kind of team Saban wants. It’s a damn shame we lost Scarbrough. He was going to be a combo Richardson-Lacy. Don’t get me wrong. I like Henry. When he gets going or gets a seem it’s all over but the crying. But he is too slow accelerating and in spite of his size, does not seem to have the power of even Yeldon, much less Lacy. Drake will continue to have his best output on the outside as a RB/Receiver. Anybody who ever put 10% of a penny’s worth of stock in the Braxton Miller bullshit, is a triple retarded dumbass. Never was – never will be, and not Coker or any other Bama QB ever was or ever will be affected by it.

  8. 15
    John S.

    Crimsonite you would be right about Henry fitting Saban’s power running scheme if we was talking pre Kiffin. This is not the typical 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense that Saban showed us in years past. Henry is a good back, but I feel he is just not on the elite level. Outside of the Sugar Bowl Vs. Oklahoma, and a couple of flashes here and there last season, he has been average at best. Drake is much more explosive , and a threat to score each time he touches the ball. Plus Drake is a much better fir for what Kiffin is trying to do. I have never seen Heisman hype die quicker than what we seen last season with Henry.I believe by week 2 or 3 , his name was no where to be found on the top players in the running , but he was in the top 2-3 preseason because of unearned hype. Then your comment that the Miller rumor is not bothering Coker , I do not believe that is true. You have this young man that transferred to Bama thinking he would be the starter for 2 years. Then he gets beat out by a mobile QB. Now the same young man is hearing rumblings that an even better mobile QB is looking at possibly transferring in? You would be foolish to think it is not weighing heavy on him.

    • 16
      nope

      It’s hard I think for people to recognize what Henry does.

      Henry bulldozes when he runs, and blocks when he doesn’t. He softens defenses.

      He’s not alone, though. The rest of the team helps “tenderize” their opponent’s defense through 4 quarters, and usually after 2 quarters it’s hard for any defense to stop Henry outright. Just the threat of him late in the game makes defenses adjust.

      You’re right though, he’s not as explosive as Lacy or Drake, but his position is unique, difficult to prepare for and nearly impossible to replace.

  9. 17
    bamafan

    Dear Kirby Smart,
    Please cut back on the blitzes. You’re making average qb’s (AU and OSU) look NFL ready.

    Thank you

  10. 18
    nope

    All off-season (and all A-Day weekend) I heard about how Alabama’s outlying goal is to increase turnovers.

    Then in the A-Day game Alabama has 7 turnovers.

    And now everyone can’t tell if that’s a disaster or a mitigated success.

    When Nick Saban has a specific goal and that goal is seemingly met (at least 5 of the 7 INT’s were arguably deliberate rather than opportunistic from bad throws) it’s hard not to see it as some kind of success. Saban wanted interceptions, Saban got interceptions, and I’m having a hard time feeling anything but better about Alabama’s secondary, especially with that d-line looking like they do.

    I don’t think people will again care how many points Alabama stops this season. Having an elite defense in 2011 clouded some people’s judgment since Alabama’s average margin of victory was “only” in the 30’s (good grief, what a team). I don’t think anyone can say how points-productive Alabama’s offense might be this year, and defenses on Alabama’s schedule look more difficult than 2014 (Georgia, AU, LSU in particular), but I love a good defense and it’s hard not to be excited about that part; Reuben Foster alone has me giddy.

    And don’t sleep on Kenyan Drake. Good lord, that guy is hungry.

    PS – I was on the White team sideline all afternoon at A-Day. It was a blast. JK Scott was practicing kicking balls, dropping and kicking balls, bouncing and kicking, catching, more kicking; he simply never stopped practicing when he wasn’t on the field. We all know he’s one of the best kickers in the nation, but his focus at A-Day alone was inspiring. Questions about the offense, fine, but Scott can help mitigate those concerns and confuse stats in any game he plays in.

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