Spring football can only tell you so much about a team, but when the alternative is spring silence, devoted fans — of which the University of Alabama has many — await every nugget. Quite often, a second scrimmage is a source for more than the usual amount of information. With Alabama holding its second scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Friday, advancing the usual Saturday date to allow its players a full Easter weekend, this might be a good time to get a sense for just how the Crimson Tide is developing.
First scrimmages are first scrimmages, after all. They tend to be shakedown cruises, trial runs in which coaches get a chance to see where extra work is needed. Defenses are usually ahead of offenses in first scrimmages. If there was anything to cause a raised eyebrow in Nick Saban’s report from Alabama’s first scrimmage last Saturday, it was the feeling — nothing definitive, just an impression — that the offense fared pretty well. That’s joyful if you are in the glass-half-full camp of UA fans. If, on the other hand, you roll on the larger and more crowded glass-half-empty bus, you’d probably like to hear some better news about the rebuilding defense after one scrimmage.
The third scrimmage is A-Day. Watching an A-Day Game for football content has always been like viewing a Tarantino film on network television — you know all the good stuff has been edited out. Coaches never want to tip their hand at A-Day, and at least for the last three years, the annual intrasquad game has ranged from uncertain to downright bad as a predictor of the fall quarterback. The situation is different this year, with a firmly established returning starter in Jalen Hurts, but there’s still a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll and one gets the sense that Saban isn’t going to share too many secrets with opening opponent Florida State if he can help it.
A second scrimmage, though, can be a spot where work gets down. I realize that the quarterback position at Alabama has a massive gravitational pull on the interest of Crimson Tide fans, but there are offensive and defensive lines to be assembled. Games are won up front, no matter how the sport is changing.
On offense, there has been a lot of shuffling around two pillars, center Bradley Bozeman and left tackle Jonah Williams. There was a good deal of practice-field buzz on Wednesday when redshirt freshman Deonte Brown made what was, as far as anyone could remember, his first appearance with the primary “rep group” (there is no delta chart, remember) at right guard. That pushed Lester Cotton out to right tackle, where there has been some serious experimentation going on. It also pushed heralded freshman Alex Leatherwood up a spot at guard. That all might have been a one-day glimpse. No spring combination is permanent. That’s the sort of movement that bears watching, though.
Defensively, the same sort of look-and-see approach still seems to be at work in both the secondary and along the line. The linebacker group seems to have replenished itself as always, with Rashaan Evans reportedly developing into the next star in a line that seems to stretch back to Lee Roy Jordan. There are stars on the front (DaRon Payne) and in the secondary (Minkah Fitzpatrick), but, at Alabama’s level, you have to find more stars to fill in the complementary constellation. You might get a glimpse at A-Day — but there’s a chance that a far less publicized scrimmage might reveal more.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.