TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama hit the practice field on Wednesday to continue its preparations for the showdown with Ole Miss on Saturday.
The Crimson Tide worked outside in full pads. Here’s the latest from Tuscaloosa.
What we saw
- After working on its nickel package on Tuesday, Alabama lined up in its dime package on Wednesday. Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett were the cornerbacks. Minkah Fitzpatrick lined up at star (5th defensive back) with Ronnie Harrison at the money (6th defensive back). Eddie Jackson and Hootie Jones were the two safeties. Reuben Foster was the lone linebacker. Averett is going to be key in Alabama’s secondary against Ole Miss this week. Look for the Rebels to attack him early because of his inexperience. How Averett holds up on his side may determine a big part of the success Alabama’s defense has.
- The second dime group had Levi Wallace and Aaron Robinson were on the corners. Hootie Jones lined up at money with freshman Shyheim Carter at star. Trevon Diggs and Deionte Thompson were the two safeties. Shaun Dion Hamilton was in at linebacker. Keaton Anderson shadowed Jones at safety.
- Freshman Jalen Hurts led the quarterbacks through drills for the third straight day. He’s expected to make his first road start on Saturday. Hurts worked with all of the starters. He threw to Damien Harris when the quarterbacks worked with the running backs. Hurts also stepped up both times to throw to Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart. Alabama appears to have settled on Hurts, and are working to get him all the reps ahead of this game.
- We saw the running backs working on wheel routes, hitches and catching the ball in the flat. Alabama’s running backs are going to be needed in the passing game this weekend.
Analyzing what Nick Saban said
On the offensive guard positions
“Well, last week we played Shank (Alphonse Taylor) half the game at right guard. We practiced Ross (Pierschbacher) back at left guard, Shank at right guard, Lester Cotton at left guard, and we feel confident in all three of those players. Obviously, Shank and Ross have more experience because they started for a whole season and I think that experience may be beneficial to them in this game, but we have not decided who we’re starting at both positions yet.” — Saban
Our take: This sounds a lot like Saban saying that Ross Pierschbacher is going to start at left guard and Alphonse Taylor is going to start at right guard. That would leave Cotton as the odd man out. As Saban mentioned, Pierschbacher and Taylor have the most experience. Pierschbacher started all 15 games at left guard last season. Taylor started all 15 games at right guard this season. Cotton has started both games at left guard this year. Ole Miss likes to use a lot of movement to confuse opposing offensive line. Having two experienced players at the guard positions would help neutralize some of the confusion.
On Jalen Hurts poise
“The one thing that I like about Jalen is that he’s got a good disposition about playing the next play. He’s obviously, we’re going through a learning curve with him to get him to be confident and understand and make choices and decisions that are going to be beneficial to him and the offense. It’s going to be a work in progress, but the thing that I like about him is that he doesn’t get frustrated. He doesn’t get all discombobulated. He has a lot of poise. I think he has a lot of inner confidence. He believes that he can do it. It’s important to him. He wants to do it. We have to trust that that’s going to help him develop and do the kind of things that he needs to do. We’re going to support him to do everything in this game that he needs to do and if Blake has to play, we’re going to support him as well.” — Saban
Our take: Hurts is still learning Alabama’s system and developing as a quarterback. But he’s as poised and calm as they come. That’s going to be huge in the hostile environment on Saturday. This is high praise from Saban on Hurts. Saban trusts that the young quarterback won’t get rattled when 60,000-plus people are screaming in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Hurts demeanor and poise are two of the biggest reasons he was able to win the job.
On Bo Scarbrough
“I don’t think he really has any issues. I think you all create an expectation to people that there’s no basis for. You do that for a lot of guys. It puts a lot of pressure on them, creates a lot of anxiety for them. What we’re trying to do here is get guys to develop and be able to comfortable and develop and gain the knowledge and experience that they need to go out there and play with confidence, play fast. We think Bo has a lot of potential and we’re going to keep working with him so he can be a very productive player for us. So I don’t think he has any issues. I think he has issues created to the expectation that you created for him. But that’s not what we’re all about here.” — Saban
Our take: We heard and talked all offseason about how Bo Scarbrough was a lock to be the starting running back. Then the season came, and Scarbrough wasn’t the first player out. Damien Harris is Alabama’s starting running back. Harris is more complete running back than Scarbrough at this point in their careers. Scarbrough missed significant time last year while recovering from knee surgery. That slowed his development. There’s nothing to suggest that Scarbrough won’t be an effective player for Alabama. Expectations may need to be a bit more realistic going forward.
Watch: Player Interviews
Alabama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart
Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick
Other news you need to know
- Breaking down Alabama’s 2017 football schedule
- Nick Saban on Chad Kelly’s NFL potential, Alabama’s secondary and more ahead of Ole Miss matchup