TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama finished its first full week of spring practice with a two-hour workout on Friday. So far, the Crimson Tide have practiced four times and have worn full pads twice. Alabama coach Nick Saban gave the team the weekend of for Easter.
Alabama is scheduled to hold scrimmages the next two Saturdays at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama’s A-Day spring game — the 15th and final practice of spring — is set for April 16.
Before we begin looking ahead, let’s recap all the news and notes from this past week.
Two position experiments could turn into permanent moves
Alabama experiments with moving players around each spring, but two of the more notable changes are Ross Pierschbacher playing center and Rashaan Evans at inside linebacker.
Pierschbacher, who started all 15 games at left guard last season, has been spotted working at center with the first offensive line group. Saban said Pierschbacher has all the tools to be a successful center. This particular move is centered around the thought of getting the best five offensive linemen on the field. Pierschbacher is competing with J.C. Hassenauer and Josh Casher.
Evans was recruited as an outside linebacker and pass rushing specialist. But his speed and athleticism could be a huge asset at inside linebacker. With all of the depth at outside linebacker, moving Evans inside allows the Tide to get another versatile playmaker on the field. Evans could rush the passer from the middle, spy on mobile quarterbacks or even cover running backs or tight ends.
Other experiments have Tony Brown working with both the cornerbacks and safeties, Maurice Smith working with the safeties and Joshua McMillon with the inside linebackers. Brown and Smith have spent time at both positions throughout their careers.
At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, McMillon might be the most impressive looking inside linebacker from a physical standpoint. Alabama has a ton of depth at outside linebacker, which made it a little easier to move around guys like Evans and McMillon.
Two injured players providing leadership while limited physically
Defensive end Jonathan Allen (shoulder) and left tackle Cam Robinson (shoulder) have both been wearing black, non-contact jerseys and haven’t been able to participate much. But that hasn’t stopped both from showing leadership with their respective position groups.
Allen stands next to the defensive linemen and has almost acted like an assistant to coach Bo Davis. If Davis gets onto a younger player for messing up a drill, Allen usually follows up with words of encouragement. If Davis misses something, Allen usually calls his teammates out and gives instruction on how to properly go through the drill.
Same goes for Robinson. With Robinson out, players like Jonah Williams and Charles Baldwin have gotten reps at left tackle. Robinson has coached-up both of them, offering tips and pointers after they complete a rep.
That’s huge for Alabama as both groups need leaders to emerge with Ryan Kelly gone from the offensive line and A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed no longer around to guide the defensive line.
Wide receiver Robert Foster (shoulder) has been wearing a black, non-contact jersey, but Saban said he is doing everything the other receivers are doing.
Other injured players are safety Eddie Jackson (leg), tight end Dakota Ball (foot), wide receiver Raheem Falkins (leg) and freshman Shawn Jennings (leg). This group rides stationary bikes during the media’s viewing periods of practice. These guys will be limited for the majority, if not all, of spring practice.
Not much change with the quarterbacks
There wasn’t much change in the quarterback pecking order during the media’s viewing period of practices. Cooper Bateman led one line while David Cornwell was the first up in the other. Blake Barnett worked behind Bateman with January enrollee Jalen Hurts was behind Cornwell.
All four of the quarterbacks have shown pretty good accuracy and arm strength during the limited viewing window. All four have also made a “wow” throw or two.
Bateman, who started one game last season, benefited from the experience. Bateman seems to carry himself with more confidence. Physically, Cornwell looks like the best of the bunch. He’s got the size, arm strength and can really spin it.
Compared to this time last year, Barnett looks like a different player from a physical standpoint. It’s easy to tell that Barnett did a lot of work during the offseason to put on some weight. The redshirt freshman has a great arm as well.
Hurts, who enrolled in January, has looked very impressive during drills, particularly on some of the longer passes. Hurts has great arm strength and touch. He makes it look easy at times.
This coming week is when we could start to see some movement as Alabama gets ready for its first scrimmage.
Top Alabama stories from the week
- Some of Alabama’s stars believe the Crimson Tide has what it takes “to be special” this season.
- There won’t be a Crimson Caravan this year. Nick Saban said it “wasn’t really my decision.”
- Nick Saban appeared on the Dan Patrick Show on Friday. He discussed Alabama’s season opener vs. USC, social media and the NFL Draft.
- Saban also shared his thoughts on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh during the national radio appearance.
- Former Alabama quarterback Jake Coker will participate in a second pro day.
- In some sad news, former Alabama great Kevin Turner died on Thursday. Alabama athletic director Bill Battle released a statement on Turner. Saban said Turner was a “fantastic player and an even better person.”
- Saban was named to Fortune’s lists of “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.” He was humble when asked about the honor.
- 5-star signee Lyndell “Mack” Wilson is scheduled to have shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Here’s the latest on his situation, and when he expects to return to the field.
- Practice reports from Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- Two Alabama players are excelling at new positions.
- An offensive lineman is “embracing” the move to a different spot.
- A star wide receiver is playing well coming off an injury.
- O.J. Howard explains why he returned for his senior season.
- Saban breaks down the running back competition.
- A-Day will air on a national network.