TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Defense won the day during Alabama football’s first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium, based on what we heard from people in attendance.
That’s to be expected given Alabama is breaking in a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll. Also, Alabama’s defense is going to be loaded at each level once again. However, there were some things the offense can build on.
“I don’t think we had the rhythm that we’d like to see on offense,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I’m sure he (Daboll) would say the same thing to you. I don’t think that’s a reflection on him. It’s just the way it went today. We’ve had good days and we’ve had bad days.
“Today we made some plays and we made some really good plays. But the consistency wasn’t what it needed to be in terms of finishing drives and playing with the consistency of… There were a lot of good things to build on.”
The scrimmage lasted roughly 135 plays and lasted just over two hours under sunny skies, with temperatures hanging in the low 90s for most of the afternoon.
Here are a three things we learned from the workout based on a few of Saban’s comments.
1. Nick Saban likes this team
It’s still kind of early in camp, but a lot of things are slowly falling into place for Alabama football and Saban has noticed.
“I think we can have a really, really good team,” Saban said. “I’m not disappointed in what our team is right now. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. Are we where we’d like to be? I think we just have to focus on what we need to do to improve.”
Reading a little between the lines, that’s Saban’s version of high praise. Offer a little praise while also publicly letting the players know there is still plenty of room to grow.
Alabama loses so much talent to the NFL each year. The thing is, Alabama is one of the few programs — and maybe the only one — that consistently has multiple four and five stars waiting for their opportunity. While Alabama may be young or inexperienced in certain positions, the Crimson Tide certainly doesn’t lack for talent. It’s just a matter of maximizing these next couple of weeks prior to the season opener to ensure the players are ready to take on Florida State.
2. Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood will get a shot this week
A pair of 5-star prospects in Alabama’s 2017 class, Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood are going to get their shot to impress the coaching staff this coming week.
During warmups, we spotted Wills and Leatherwood splitting time at right tackle with the second-team offense. Both also could play guard if necessary. Saban said both guys have done well in practice, and “have the potential to help us.”
The focus of this coming week of practice as well as Alabama’s second scrimmage will be on seeing which players deserve a spot in the two-deep. This is a prime opportunity for Wills and/or Leatherwood to make their case for potential playing time as true freshmen.
“I think both those guys are certainly guys we want to invest a lot of time in this week and get to the point where we see if they can help us this year,” Saban said.
3. Not-so-special teams
If there is one question mark Alabama has, it’s place kicking. It’s hard to remember a time when Alabama fans didn’t have to sit on their hands every time the kicker trotted out, but we could be looking at another year of that this season.
Alabama fans need not worry about punter JK Scott. Scott may have to help out with kickoffs and/or field goals if necessary.
Saban also mentioned that the punt return unit is shaping up.
Field-goal kicking remains an issue. Saban said Thursday that there is competition at kicker and long snapper.
Alabama signed long snapper Thomas Fletcher and kicker Joseph Bulovas in its 2017 class, but neither has locked up the job to this point.
Fletcher is the lone long snapper listed on Alabama’s roster, so he is likely competing against walk-ons.
Bulovas is competing with senior Andy Pappanastos.
“I think we have things to work on relative to some of the other areas in the kicking game,” Saban said. “Missed a couple field goals. We had a couple blocked because we didn’t really have good protection. So we really need to work hard on that part of it.
“Kickoff and kickoff returns seem to be doing really, really well. I think we have to develop confidence in that area. It’s not just the kicker; it’s the protection, the holder, the whole operation being on time. We need to do a lot of work in that area.”
No news is good news
There was no real news for Alabama football from an injury standpoint. Saban mentioned running backs Najee Harris (slightly pulled hamstring) and Josh Jacobs (pulled hamstring) as the two players who were held out.
Harris should be ready to go on Monday. Jacobs injury could take a few more days to heal up.
Outside of the normal bumps and bruises, everyone else should be able to practice on Monday after taking Sunday off. That’s the best news of the day if you’re an Alabama fan.
— Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) August 13, 2017