Alabama returned to the gridiron Monday for its second day of spring practice. Outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi and defensive backs coach Mel Tucker both entered with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart looks confident working with the inside linebackers. Alabama’s Jake Coker looked comfortable tossing passes, but Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett displayed some tight spirals.Touchdown Alabama Magazine writers Maxwell Taylor and Stephen M. Smith doing a Q&A segment to recap the sightings for day two of spring practice.
Stephen: Head coach Nick Saban worked with the cornerbacks, while defensive backs coach Mel Tucker focused on the safeties. How much does it benefit the safeties working with Tucker?
Maxwell: I believe that Mel Tucker is simplifying the job for the defensive backs and really taking them back to the basics of the position. Tucker, a former assistant of Nick Saban, began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Coach Saban at Michigan State University in 1997-1998, and then became his defensive backs coach at LSU during the 2000-2001 season. This hire, on paper, looks like it could be one of the most underrated hires of the year just by the sheer amount of experience Tucker has coaching in a Saban led defense. Tucker has seven years of experience in the NFL, including a stint with the Cleveland Browns as its defensive backs coach.
Stephen: Tosh Lupoi, 32, brings a lot of youth and energy to Alabama’s outside linebackers. Which player(s) will benefit the most from him in year one?
Maxwell: I would have to say Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion Hamilton. These are two young players who have really have impressed their fellow teammates and coaches during their freshmen year at the Capstone. Evans, a 6-foot-2, 252-pound sophomore linebacker out of Auburn High School, appeared in 13 games for the Crimson Tide last year ending the season with 15 tackles and two sacks. Hamilton, while not having as much game experience as Evans, played in all 14 games last season (mostly in mop up duty) finishing the year with 3 tackles. Hamilton’s been really impressive in practice and has caught some praise from former Alabama safety Nick Perry calling Hamilton “one of his players” to watch this upcoming season.
Stephen: Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is now Alabama’s inside linebackers coach. He hand picked Reggie Ragland, Dillon Lee and Reuben Foster. Who joins Ragland more on the field in 2015?
Maxwell: You have to hope Its Reuben Foster and I say hope because Foster does everything that you want an aspiring SEC All-American linebacker to do. He practices well, is a an absolute STUD on special teams and he seems to be growing as a leader in the locker room. However, Foster does have a tendency to injure himself during games due to the intensity which he plays the game with. If Foster can improve his form in tackling other players, I know he will slide right next to Reggie Ragland and become one of the best linebacker tandems in the whole SEC.
Stephen: Quarterback Jake Coker looked comfortable passing today, but Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell and Blake Barnett all had some tight spirals. Which QB impressed you?
Maxwell: Cooper Bateman looks like a man on a mission this spring. He looks like an SEC quarterback now, and has been in the program for two years. I really think that this might be his year to push for the starting job. If Bateman puts together a good spring practice and has another eye opening A-Day performance, then he will have plenty of momentum in his favor to be a frontrunner in the quarterback competition.
Stephen: Aside from Ryan Kelly and Cam Robinson, which Alabama offensive lineman are you high on heading into A-Day?
Maxwell: Bradley Bozemen just keeps catching my eye whenever I see him working in drills with offensive line coach Mario Cristobal. The 6-5 320-pound sophomore is just a load to look at, but is also very nimble on his feet. Bozeman had his redshirt lifted of him last year after center Ryan Kelly went down with an injury during the Ole Miss game last season. Bozeman would go to start two games in place of the injured Kelly and really did an admirable job for the Crimson Tide. I expect him to get a fair shot at one of the open positions on the offensive line.
Stephen: Chris Black looks to be Alabama’s primary target in 2015, but how does Cam Sims, Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and O.J. Howard stack up to him? How did Howard look in today’s practice?
Maxwell: I really think Cam Sims has a chance to really breakout in 2015. He is a 6-foot-5 receiver who saw a good bit of playing time down the stretch last season along with ArDarius Stewart. He has flashed some pretty impressive hands during practice last year and has really taken his time to learn Lane Kiffin’s offense. As for Robert Foster, maybe this will be the year he lives up to the hype that he had coming out of Central Valley High School (Monaca, Pa.).
He was a five-star receiver on a couple of major recruiting sites. Speaking of living up to the hype, O.J. Howard might just be doing that now. Howard looks even more athletic than he did his first two years at Alabama and really ran some great routes today. I think O.J. has a bounce back season after having a sophomore campaign filled with some head scratching drops.
Stephen: I saw running back Kenyan Drake spend all of time with the receivers today. Do you sense a chance of him being more of an all-purpose weapon next season?
Maxwell: Well before his gruesome injury Stephen, I thought that’s what Drake was becoming especially, after his outstanding performances against Florida and Florida Atlantic. It doesn’t really come as a surprise to me that Kiffin wants to make him an offensive weapon sort of like Reggie Bush was during his tenure at Southern California. Drake’s gruesome leg injury last season against Ole Miss last season could push him to a limited role in the backfield behind Derrick Henry.
- Cornerback Cyrus Jones (hip) and linebacker Denzel Devall (leg) in black non-contact jerseys.
- Offensive lineman Grant Hill was absent today (medical leave).
- Cornerbacks Eddie Jackson and Bradley Sylve were leading drills.
- Safety Laurence “Hootie” Jones dropped one pass during drills, was seen doing push ups afterwards.
- Tight end O.J. Howard catching passes from Jake Coker and Alec Morris.