We all know that spring games are for evaluating the players, seeing how they are progressing, who is "getting it," and who is not. Offense is vanilla, it's touch football on kickoffs, punt returns, and on the QB. Penalties are pretty much non-existent, and there is no instant replay to overturn bad calls (or sustain good ones).
The 2010 A-Day Game was much anticipated, for many wanted to see how the defense would perform after losing so many wonderful players that had helped put Bama back at the top. Many wanted to get their first look at the early enrollees. Many wanted to see how last year's backups would perform as starters, and if last year's redshirts would be on pace to contribute heavily this year.
I think we got a good taste of all of the above.
QB's: They all played exceptionally well. There hasn't been a group this talented on campus in many years. Greg McElroy is a winner and will continue to win. A.J. McCarron has great touch on short and long throws (and he loves to throw it down the field!) and alleviates any concerns if GMac goes down. He'll play this year.
Star Jackson looked like a different QB from last year, more confident in his abilities and in the offense. Phillip Sims is gonna be a good one. If not for a few drops, his stats would have been on-par with the previous scrimmages. The future is secure.
RB's: Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson picked up right where they left off last year. Both are very good receivers out of the backfield, which makes them doubly dangerous. I pity opposing DC's trying to devise a way to stop them.
Eddie Lacy looked great. He seems to be much more of a straight line runner with an outstanding first step and great speed. He also seems to have the balance and ability to break tackles that MI and TR have. There will be little, if any, drop off when he comes in. Demetrius Goode again looked great. Almost makes one wish we ran the wishbone so we could get them all on the field at the same time.
WR's: Julio Jones didn't have a great game, dropping several passes he should have caught. I think he puts too much pressure on himself to live up to his hype, and it shows. I am not worried, though. Talent always comes through and he is dedicated to making himself better.
Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks look to be better than last year. Brandon Gibson looked outstanding, great hands and good speed. Can see why he was back on offense. Our two redshirt WR's showed great ability. Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood will play for sure. Michael Bowman didn't play due to injury, and he may be one of the best. Am not sure if any of the freshman WR's coming in the fall will see the field, except maybe on special teams.
TE's: Michael Williams and Preston Dial blocked well, but weren't involved in any primary passing plays. Williams dropped a couple of short dumps, but they weren't well thrown balls but still catchable. Don't remember any passes thrown to Dial, Brad Smelley, or Chris Underwood. Have a feeling that this was intentional, for I believe the TE will be a big part of the passing game in the fall. I think freshman Brian Vogler will have a chance to see PT when he arrives.
OL: Played decently, better than expected seeing that we had new starters at OLG, ORT, and C. All eyes were on D.J. Fluker, and IMO he played pretty well. You have to consider that he was going against "The Beast" (Marcell Dareus) most of the game, and there isn't any ORT in American that can handle him.
In fact, that is part of what is making D.J. a better OL and will pay huge dividends down the road. He handled himself well at the point of attack (MI's long run was to the right), but got a little lost in pass protection. He will get better.
Chance Warmack played well at LG, and it was easy to see why he is running with the firsts over JM Boswell. David Ross did fine at C, but I thought Brian Motley played much better. One can see that William Vlachos is probably our most important OL, and it will be good to get him back in the fall.
Barrett Jones showed why he was a freshman AA. The second-team OL was up and down. They would block like little leaguers on one series, then like pro's the next. Inconsistent to say the least but anyone could see that the talent is there.
All eyes were on the defense, wanting to see how big of a drop off there would be from last year's unit and if certain players had progressed enough to fill some huge shoes. They did not disappoint and looked to be up to the task.
They hit hard and generally looked to be coming together greatly as a unit. Bad news for our opponents who think that our defense will be much weaker this year. It helped mightily that they were playing against the first unit, so no one can say that they looked great against the second team. The one very important thing that stood out is that our tackling was outstanding.
DL: IMO, there will be little drop off from last year. In fact, our pass rush will be much better from the DE's. Josh Chapman and Kerry Murphy plugged the middle effectively, with a little better push in the backfield. Brandon Moore is going to be a stud.
When Marcel Dareus lines up at DT, the pass rush up the middle is tremendous. When he stays at DE, pity the poor OT who has to try and handle him. DE's Luther Davis, Damion Square, and Darrington Sentimore had their moments and showed that they are ready for prime time. I don't know if there is a better, more talented group of DL in the country.
LB: Dant'a Hightower played well, and if he is only at 90 percent now, heaven help our opponents when he is 100 percent this fall. Courtney Upshaw took up where he left off in the BCS, getting at least one sack and providing pressure off of the edge.
Jerrell Harris finally looked liked the LB we knew he could be. Chris Jordan looked good. Nico Johnson looked good against the run, but was beaten quite a few times when matched against a RB in pass protection. In fact, that is one area as a whole that needs to be addressed.
Glenn Harbin reminds me of Brandon Fanney-huge and rangy. Good to see Petey Smith on the field. Jalston Fowler played well, especially for someone who was just moved to ILB at the beginning of spring. Tana Patrick and Chavis Williams also played well. This group has a chance to be very special.
CB: Although this unit will remain an area of concern, some of that was washed away with the play of Dre Kirkpatrick and B.J. Scott. Both looked liked the five-star CB's they were coming out of high school.
B.J. basically shut down Julio, playing him physical and tight. Dre gave up a few (we all know the TD catch would have been overturned), but he played with confidence and a good understanding of the defense. His size alone makes match ups difficult for any offense, and he has the speed to keep up with smaller receivers. I think he will pick off a few balls this year.
The two early enrollee CB's (John Fulton and Demarcus Milliner) were certainly tested again and again for the White team threw at them quite often. Fulton looked better, understandably since Milliner played S in high school and is just now learning the position. Both had their moments though, and with CNS teaching them they will certainly improve faster than normal.
Still, it was hard to evaluate the unit as a whole since Robbie Green will not be in uniform and Phelon Jones did not play (don't know why). Our depth is light, so these guys are it. One thing that must be "unlearned" is keeping their hands off of the receiver. Contact is expected, but not to the extent that was utilized in the game.
S: Mark Barron will be an All American...but the one thing he needs to do in order for the DB's to have a chance for success is take control of the unit, much like Rolo took control last year. He has to be leader of a very young squad.
Robert Lester played well, but I think Rod Woodson played better. That battle to be the starter will last until the first game and maybe beyond. Wes Neighbors can hit, but looked like he was out of place to often. Again, inexperience.
Kendall Kelly played well also, but needs to either stay at S full-time or move back to WR (IMO). It's important for his growth as a S for him to get as many reps there as possible. If he stays and progresses, he has the chance to be special.
I think both of the guys coming in the fall (Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry) will play. Another area where depth is thin and where the youngsters must step up.
Punter: I am not going to go off on this guy. Sure, he was pretty bad the first half but did come back and punted well in the second half. Still, we all must realize that this area is the reason CNS gave a scholarship to a high-school punter, and recruited another as a preferred walk on. One of those guys will come in and get the job done.
Place kicker: Another area that will see a new face. Much was expected of Cade Foster after everyone saw his "best of" YouTube video. Many were disappointed after seeing him in action yesterday.
This guy is the real deal. He has a super strong leg, and the coaches know that it is his accuracy that must be consistently coached. It will be. He was pressing yesterday, and it showed. The one time he looked natural on kick offs, he put it in the end zone. Shelley showed that he was accurate, but doesn't have the leg strength for long FG's. I think we will all see a big improvement between now and fall camp.
Punt and Kick-off units: I saw someone say that this area was a shambles. How can anyone judge when the players are playing tag? We just don't know, and there was absolutely no way to tell from yesterday's game. I would like to see Maze returning punts over Julio.
Overall, although the offense was playing basic vanilla plays, you could tell that they were playing with confidence. I think opposing teams will be surprised and see a huge difference from last years semi-conservative approach. Coach Mac's entire play book has been opened.
The defense played very well. It is only our opponents fans who thought that our defense would play at a drastically lower level than last year's team.
I know that there were players who played, and played well that I didn't mention. My apologies...