Alabama football: Assessing breakthrough talent through two weeks of spring ball

Welcome to The Rammer Jammer, SEC Country’s daily Alabama athletics recap. Today, we look at Alabama’s most promising young talent.

Redshirt freshman Ben Davis, as a local prospect and former top linebacker recruit, has a lot to prove at Alabama. He was a 5-star recruit, and his father, Wayne Davis, is the leading tackler in Alabama history and played the same position. The expectations for the 6-foot-4, 235-pound player are sky high.

With his redshirt season behind him, his high school coaches have no doubt that he will meet them.

What do coach Nick Saban and the veteran leaders think about the rest of Alabama’s young blood?

ICYMI

Built by Bama

This week marks opening day for several former Alabama baseball players:

Tommy Hunter is slated to be the Tampa Bay Rays’ setup man this season. He saw no action as the Rays opened the 2017 MLB season by smashing the Yankees, 7-3, on Sunday.

Wade LeBlanc is a reliever in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen. They’ll open the season at Boston at 1:05 p.m. CT Monday. Normally, this would match him up against utility infielder Josh Rutledge, a fellow alumnus, but Rutledge started the season on the disabled list.

Five minutes later, Jimmy Nelson’s Milwaukee Brewers host Colorado for their home opener. Nelson is a back-of-the-rotation starter for Milwaukee.

Alex Avila will open the season as a backup catcher on the roster of the Detroit Tigers as they travel to Chicago to take on his previous team, the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox are home to stalwart closer David Robertson, a former Alabama closer and Tuscaloosa native. That game starts at 3:10 p.m. CT on Monday.

Also on the slate, Adam Morgan was moved to the bullpen for the Philadelphia Phillies. They open at the Cincinnati Reds at 3:10 p.m. on Monday.

And speaking of baseball, Derrick Henry was on campus to throw out the opening pitch as Alabama hosted Arkansas over the weekend.

In other news, former Alabama basketball player Trevor Lacey hit a game-winning coast-to-coast buzzer-beater to spur his team, Dinamo Sassari, to an Italian league victory against Enel Brindisi.

Around the Capstone

The gymnastics team finished second at its NCAA regional, breaking a seven-year winning streak, and posted a 196.625 mark that included a 49.000 score on balance beam and a 48.8 total on vault. The low scores were offset by a meet-winning 49.475 on floor exercise, powered by Aja Sims’ 9.95. Troublingly for Alabama, when it should have easily won the meet, it instead needed help from Southern Utah, which could have passed the Tide with a score just slightly ahead of its season high on beam.

Inconsistency continued to plague Alabama in the final meet before the national championships, but the result for the meet was positive: Alabama advanced to its 35th consecutive NCAA championship meet, the second most in the nation behind only Utah. Alabama’s in an SEC-heavy semifinal, which includes LSU, Florida and Georgia (and Michigan and Nebraska), starting on floor exercise. It’ll be the late meet.

The baseball team stuck to trend, taking one game of the series against No. 20 Arkansas, before falling in the late innings of the rubber match. The No. 9 softball team also dropped its series, the first conference series loss of the season, when it left nine runners on base against Mizzou.

Women’s tennis lost to Florida and South Carolina. The men’s team swept Jackson State but lost to South Carolina. 

For better news, we turn to golf. The men’s team put three players in the top 10 at the Mason Rudolph Championship en route to a tournament-winning 29-under 823, the best performance of the season so far. Redshirt freshman Josh Sedeno went 9-under par to place second overall.

On the women’s side, Alabama won its second consecutive tournament and third of the season, and was the only team under par at the Bryan National Collegiate. Freshman Kristen Gillman won the individual title.

And in track, Alfred Chelanga broke a school record in the 10k while becoming the top collegiate finisher at the Stanford Invitational. In the field and at shorter distances, Alabama medaled several times at the Florida Relays. The rowing team won several races at the FIRA Rowing Regatta.

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