Alabama played Alabama Saturday and lot was revealed, but how much of it did you already know?
What Bama Fans REALLY Should Take From the A Day Scrimmage
By: Larry Burton
The first thing Alabama fans should take away from the A Day Game is this: The A Day Game gives a glimpse of how the team is at this point, but maybe not necessarily how it will look during the season. Remember, many of the players that will be key players in the fall either didn’t play or had no contact jerseys on. So what you saw on Saturday isn’t necessarily what you’ll see this fall.
Secondly, as we learned from last season when Blake Sims stunk up A Day, but had a strong fall camp, starting jobs aren’t settled until game time. So just because someone shines or stinks in this spring scrimmage, it is quickly forgotten once they are into full late summer and fall practices.
So with the generalizations out of the way, let’s take a look at the specifics.
Quarterbacks, Running Back and Offensive Line – This is the biggest question fans wanted to see answered and just like last year, it wasn’t. For the most part all the quarterbacks showed why they were chosen with some good plays and also showed why none has risen to the starting job with some poor plays and even poorer decision making.
Every quarterback but Alec Morris threw a pick. While at times Coker looked good, others left coaches scratching their heads over dumb decisions. Morris ran for his life most of the day but never made a bad decision while the rest had flashes of good and flashes of nuckle head.
Last season Alabama had a starting quarterback, Blake Sims, who as said earlier, stunk up A Day. It should have been a signal of things to come as his up and down play showed that at home he could put up great numbers and then struggle mightily on the road. Ultimately, his poor play cost Alabama another national championship when he threw three interceptions.
All of Alabama’s quarterbacks yesterday looked much like Sims yesterday, a Jeckyll and Hyde kind of quarterback. This is not good for Alabama’s prospects for two very important reasons. First of all the running game for Alabama yesterday did not shine at all. Derrick Henry did not lead the team in yards per carry average. Jacob Coker did with one run for 4 yards. Henry did rattle off two double digit runs, but ended the day with yard per carry average of just 3 yards a carry. That meant a lot of his runs were for no gain to speak of. Here are the stats of the quarterbacks and running backs.
Jacob Coker 14-28, 183 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD – 13 yd per comp. avg – 50% completion avg.
Alec Morris 7-11, 60 yards – 8.5 yd per comp. avg – 63% completion avg.
David Cornwell 12-24, 110 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT – 9 yd per comp. avg. – 50% comp. avg.
Cooper Bateman 7-11, 48 yards, 1 INT – 6.85 yd per comp. avg. – 63.6% comp. avg.
Blake Barnett 6-9, 28 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs – 4.66 yd per comp. avg. – 66% comp. avg.
In Saban’s eyes, the quarterback winner, (if there was one) was Alec Morris who had a decent completion average with decent yards per catch, but mostly because he never turned the ball over and on one play was wise enough just to throw the ball away and avoid a sack or a bad throw.
Derrick Henry 15-46, 1 TD – 3 yd per carry avg.
Kenyan Drake 5-13 – 2.6 per carry avg. (but all the defense had to do was touch him for him to be counted down because of no contact jersey)
Coker 1-4 – 4 yd per carry avg.
Ronnie Clark 5-12 – 2.4 yd per carry avg.
DeSherrius Flowers 1-2 – 2 yd per carry avg.
In Saban’s eyes, this is disastrous for the offense as a whole but reassuring for the hopes he has in this defensive front. If the offense can’t get at least a four to four and a half yard per carry average against a good defense to support a rookie quarterback, it could be a long day. Last season Alabama averaged 5.10 yards per carry for the season.
What this means overall is that in January, Alabama looked to have the deepest pool of running backs in the nation. But with the dismissal of one running back for drugs, losing a promising freshman that looked to have sure playing time to an ACL injury and the apparent ineptitude of the remaining running backs except for Henry and Drake, then Alabama doesn’t look to have near the depth it needs. This could bode well for an incoming freshman who won’t be on campus until this summer, Damien Harris. In fact, after watching the game, Harris tweeted, “The time is now” and “The opportunity is there, I’ve just got to take it.” Indeed these things could be true.
But fans need to keep in mind that Clark and Flowers aren’t exactly 100% right now. Clark is still recovering from an Achilles injury last fall and Flowers has had shoulder problems for much of the spring. Both could put up better numbers, but then that certainly isn’t a given.
Lastly, keep in mind that these running backs were running against the best defensive line in college football period. If you want to make the argument that some ran against the second team defense, then keep this in mind. Kirby Smart knows that this is his best line ever and that the difference between the first and second team has never been closer.
Yesterday they didn’t open a lot of holes for the running game, they had quarterbacks struggling to stay on their feet and except for not having dumb penalties, they just didn’t impress at all. The running backs had a terrible yard per carry average and there were too many sacks for any fan to be comfortable with. To be blunt, they looked bad.
But is that reason for Alabama fans to panic?
No, not at all. This is a group in the process of still coming together. In spring games, the defensive line is and will always be ahead of the offensive line. They have a history of starting slow when they have a new group, but they come together at the right time and they will be fine as the season goes on. All the parts are there for a strong line and while there isn’t great depth at every position, there is enough depth to sustain at least an injury or two without disastrous results. This is a versatile group of young men that can pitch in and play multiple positions.
Amari Who? While that may be a stretch, it seems that losing a sure 1st round NFL draft choice won’t have the sting that many thought it may have. All of Alabama’s receivers looked good top to bottom and having so many threats could actually work in Alabama’s favor this season over the Amari Cooper show that was last season. The best news is that some of the men who may wind up being stars didn’t have their breakout game yesterday that they could have.
So in other words, to say they did great yesterday and that they’ll be even better in the regular season says just how much this group can accomplish this season. Expect more from O.J. Howard and Chris Black as the season goes on and expect Foster and Stewart to continue their hot ways. Also, as the season goes on, look for running backs to post some big numbers in the receiving stats column. The future here couldn’t be brighter as long as the quarterbacks can get the ball to them and not too often to the defending teams as they did Saturday.
Now it appears the injury to sophomore Cam Sims, the next apparent receiving star, won’t cause a problem.
Robert Foster 6-125 – 20.83 yd per catch avg.
ArDarius Stewart 8-118, 2 TDs – 14.75 yd per catch avg.
Dakota Ball 3-23 – 7.66 yd per catch avg.
Ronnie Clark 7-40 – 5.85 yd per catch avg.
Ty Flournoy-Smith 5-46 – 9.2 yd per catch avg.
Raheem Falkins 3-28 – 9.33 yd per catch avg.
Parker Barrineau 3-16, TD – 5.33 yd per catch avg.
Chris Black 2-13 – 6.5 yd per catch avg.
The defensive front line did a wonderful job of pressuring the quarterback, getting sacks and dominating the running game. First team, second team, third team, walk ons and all did a great job all day long with no real mistakes being registered by anyone.
Folks, you just saw the beginning chapter in a story of what may be the best defensive front of linemen and linebackers in Alabama’s long and storied history of great lines. Now while that may be just this writer’s sentiments, it is sure that if it’s not the best defensive front of all time, it could surely be one of the best in college football this year.
Even without two linemen who were thought to be sure starters, Jonathan Allen and A’Shawn Robinson, the defensive line whipped the offensive line all day long. This defense registered eight sacks and 19 tackles for loss, seven QB hurries and linemen Dalvin Tomlinson, Jarran Reed and Joshua Frazier batted down passes as did linebackers Reggie Ragland and Dillon Lee, who also had an interception.
Though burned on few deep throws, overall they won the day, snagging a staggering number of interceptions with the linebacking corp pitching in too. Coverage was tighter than expected and the defensive backs also got some tackles for loss that proved they can muscle it up if they have to.
In fact, even counting the defensive front which had a great day, the most stops were recorded by Bradley Sylve who was credited with being involved in nine tackles. The defensive backs also got five interceptions from this group including one that they took back to the house. The biggest thing you can take from Saturday’s A Day Game was the the hiring of Mel Tucker to coach these backs seems to be paying off well.
Even without a star on the sideline, overall these backs as a group look much further along than they did this time last season. That could bode well as last season Alabama was known as a team that could be burned with the long ball. Marlon Humphrey, who finally gets a chance to play after a year on the bench and true freshman Ronnie Harrison look ready to push for playing time this fall. Lastly, Saban’s experiment in moving cornerback Maurice Smith to safety seems to be working. Smith not only seemed comfortable, but played well including snagging an interception and taking it all the way back for a touchdown. Smith’s play could give Tide fans a breath of relief as this was a position in great need of a new face to step up.
Of course punter JK Scott looked great with 5 punts that averaged 53.8 yards per punt, with one inside the 20. This is the man who could be the best punter in all of college football.
In placekicking, the story wasn’t so good. Adam Griffith hit a 28 and 49 yard field goal, but missed just as many. His two misses were from 37 and on a 53 yard attempt, he slipped and fell. Gunnar Raborn was 3 for 3 on extra points and looked to be a good backup plan for placekicking.
Since Saban doesn’t allow kickoff or punt returns, it’s really hard to see what could have been there, but it seems like the Tide will fare well.
Alabama has a long way to go to getting a championship quality quarterback under center no matter who finally wins the job. But the running game will come around and bail out the quarterback early in the season until they finally get the consistency that everyone wants. The same goes for Alabama’s offensive line which still hasn’t gelled.
But the biggest thing you can get from this A Day Game is that this defense is going to be a big step up from last year’s unit. In fact , it may so good that they can overcome any shortcoming the offense may still have by the time the regular season comes around. Overall there’s high Tide in Tuscaloosa.
A Day Award Day Awards
Every year at this time, Alabama gives out special awards to the players who have excelled in different areas. Here are this year’s winners:
Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award – Dominick Jackson, Reuben Foster
Jerry Duncan “I Like to Practice” Award – Maurice Smith, Bradley Sylve, Chris Black, Bradley Bozeman
Billy Neighbors Defensive Lineman Award – Jarran Reed and D.J. Pettway
Paul Crane Offensive Lineman Award – Ryan Kelly
Bobby Johns Defensive Back Award – Tony Brown and Geno Smith
Johnny Musso Offensive Back Award – Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry
Ray Perkins Receiver Award – Robert Foster
Woodrow Lowe Linebacker Award – Reggie Ragland
Derrick Thomas Community Service Award – Keith Holcombe and Josh Casher
Bear Bryant Outstanding Non-Scholarship Award – Michael Nysewander, Jamey Mosley, Parker Barrineau, Levi Wallace, Lawrence Erekosima
Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman Award – Ronnie Harrison, Rashaan Evans, Ross Pierschbacher, Blake Barnett, J.C. Hassenauer, David Cornwell, DaShawn Hand, Anthony Averett, Christian Miller, Bo Scarborough
Bart Starr Most Improved Player Award – Eddie Jackson, Ty Flournoy-Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, ArDarius Stewart, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Brandon Greene
Mal Moore Leadership Award – A’Shawn Robinson and O.J. Howard
Sylvester Croom Commitment to Excellence Award – Cam Robinson and Dillon Lee
Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the A-Day Game Award – Ryan Kelly
Dixie Howell Memorial Most Valuable Player of the A-Day Game Award – Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart
2014 Team Captains Award Ceremony
Amari Cooper, Jalston Fowler and Blake Sims and Landon Collins were the permanent team captains of the 2014 team. They were honored in front of Denny Chimes before the game by placing their hand and footprints in cement at the base of Denny Chimes. It is a long standing honor for players elected by their teammates as the permanent team captains. Missing from the festivities was Landon Collins.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter
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