10 Alabama football takeaways from first week of practice: Bryce Young, Evan Neal can serve as offensive building blocks
About a week has passed since Alabama football opened preseason practice.
Reporters have had a chance to view three 15-minute sessions over that span, the third of which was Thursday, the first day outside in pads.
Here are 10 observations and takeaways from the first week:
Evan Neal and Bryce Young look good
Offensive tackle Evan Neal and quarterback Bryce Young look good. Really good. Both players have all the fundamentals to be elite this season. They each have great mechanics and pass the eye test. For an entirely new-look offense, having a stud quarterback and left tackle is a good place to start.
Kool-Aid McKinstry is making a name for himself
There are plenty of Alabama folks drinking the Kool-Aid. Freshman cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry has received no shortage of praise from coaches and teammates during the first week of camp. Coachable, smart, disciplined, athletic and physical are some of the words they have used to describe him. Especially physical. Defensive coordinator Pete Golding said if they can get all that to be consistent, “he’s going to be a really good player.” How this translates to the way Alabama uses him this year remains to be seen.
Cameron Latu 'very physical'
Speaking of physical, that label fits tight end Cameron Latu. During one drill, he demonstrated impressive pop when he lowered his shoulder into a person holding a dummy. Safety Jordan Battle, who has to defend him often, said Latu is “very physical and very, very fast.”
Players are mostly healthy
Alabama is fairly healthy overall. Defensive lineman LaBryan Ray has not been practicing because of what coach Nick Saban termed a “pretty significant groin injury.” Fellow defensive lineman Braylen Ingraham also has not been seen practicing. Inside linebacker Shane Lee was not spotted at practice Thursday.
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D-line coach Freddie Roach is intense
One of the most fun things to watch at practice is a coach who gets fired up. Sometimes that’s frustration, but there are some coaches who just love to be intense. Defensive line coach Freddie Roach is one of those. You can hear him from about anywhere on the practice field. Defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis said Roach “brings a lot of energy.” Roach's intensity and enthusiasm make you want to throw on some shoulder pads and jump in line for the drill.
Will Anderson Jr. is one to watch
Sophomore edge defender Will Anderson Jr. is just fun to watch on a football field, even a practice field. Expect him to build on a strong first year.
Traeshon Holden's role is TBD
I'm curious to see how Alabama uses receiver Traeshon Holden. Much of the conversation surrounding the receivers is about John Metchie III and transfer Jameson Williams, and rightfully so, but Holden could find a nice role on this offense. He’s connected well with Young in a few drills, one of which was a deep ball on a go-route that Holden caught cleanly over the shoulder, with nice ball placement from Young, too. Metchie said Holden has “grown tremendously” playbook-wise heading into his sophomore season. Depending on how he progresses, Holden as a big-body receiver could be potent with Bill O’Brien calling the plays.
King Mwikuta isn't transferring?
Entering the transfer portal doesn’t mean goodbye, necessarily. Outside linebacker King Mwikuta entered his name in the portal in June, but he’s been practicing with Alabama over the past week.
Brian Robinson will run through people
It’s only fitting that the train often sounds in the background while Brian Robinson practices. The Tuscaloosa native said he’s not really a hurdler like his predecessor, Najee Harris. “More than likely,” Robinson said, “it will be probably lowering the shoulder or dropping my pads.” Robinson could be more than a bruiser, though. Linebacker Christian Harris, who gets to face him in practice, said Robinson has developed a lot in the passing game with his routes and catching ability.
O-line is taking shape
We’ve gotten some glimpses of what the offensive line might look like based on who is running with who in drills. The first group is (left to right) Neal, Javion Cohen, Chris Owens, Emil Ekiyor Jr., and Kendall Randolph. Five-star freshman tackle J.C. Latham appears to be running with the second group at right tackle. Much can change before now and the start of the season. It’s early in camp and Alabama will surely mix and match to find the right fit. The coaches rep their offensive linemen in multiple positions so they can be prepared for all situations, especially when injuries strike and force O-linemen to be shuffled.
Contact Alabama football reporter Nick Kelly: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly