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STEPHEN’S REPORT: Spring Analysis

Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide enters its final week of spring practice, before A-Day this Saturday. With 11 days of work (two scrimmages) in the books, Alabama is starting to see a few players step up.

Sophomore wide receiver Robert Foster is starting to understand his role as a vertical target. He’s recorded nine catches for 154 yards in two scrimmage games. His hands are becoming more consistent, and he’s displaying quickness as a route runner. The absence of Cam Sims (knee) has woken Foster up.

Junior tight end O.J. Howard wants the football. Coach Saban mentioned him as a play maker for a second time, during his press conference after Saturday’s scrimmage. Howard’s totaled six receptions for 103 yards and three touchdowns in two exhibition games. His size has always been a factor (6’6″), but now Howard’s showing the hands and mindset to go with it.

Alabama fans know what running back Derrick Henry is capable of. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior didn’t have a stellar game Saturday, but he’s been a workhorse all spring. Henry has taken on a leadership role, and has excelled in Alabama’s offseason program. He had 112 rushing yards with a touchdown in the team’s first scrimmage game. Henry collected 24 yards on six carries in Saturday’s contest.

Senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland looks to captain Alabama’s defense. He’s been a solid leader this spring, and put in a good effort in the team’s first scrimmage. Ragland totaled five tackles, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He’s improved his play as a coverage linebacker.

Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson has had a productive spring. The junior recorded nine tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery in two scrimmage games. He’s a natural run stopper that is starting to develop pass rush moves.

Linebackers Reuben Foster and Dillon Lee have something to prove. Injuries limited both players in 2014, but they have bounced back strong this spring. Coach Saban said Foster has avoided the injury bug. Foster and Lee each had three tackles and an interception in Saturday’s game.

True freshman safety Ronnie Harrison may see a lot of field time this season. He’s a bright player with good size (6’3″). Harrison put in four tackles, and continues to impress Alabama’s defensive backs coach Mel Tucker.

The idea of transitioning junior Eddie Jackson from cornerback to safety seemed a little far fetched, but Saban has been experimenting with it.  Jackson has worked at safety for Alabama’s second team defense throughout the spring. Saban said the move has worked well for Alabama and that Jackson along with Geno Smith both know the defense. The move hasn’t been finalized, despite Saban’s gesture.

Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson (ankle/knee) is wearing a walking boot, but will continue practicing with the team.  Senior Jarran Reed took over in Saturday’s scrimmage, accounting for five tackles, a sack and a pass breakup. He’s good against the run, and is developing as a dangerous pass rusher.

Alabama’s offensive line and quarterback play are what’s lagging right now. Its offensive line has experience with Ryan Kelly (senior) and Cam Robinson (sophomore), but it lacks a strong mindset. Saban wants this team to locate its identity. He’s shared some compliments on redshirt freshman quarterback David Cornwell, but Saban isn’t set on declaring a starting quarterback. He’s waiting on the one that will take the bull by the horns and lead the team.

Alabama will practice on Tuesday and Thursday, before it entertains fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Apr. 18, 2015. The Crimson Tide will look to top Nebraska in attendance. The Cornhuskers had nearly 77,000 fans at its spring game.

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