(Above left) Sophomore center J.B. Closner at practice. After spending all last season backing up Alonzo Ephraim at center, Closner started off spring drills working with the first unit. There was a lot of early talk about moving someone to his position, with Evan Mathis, Justin Smiley and Matt Lomax mentioned. But Closner has performed well, allowing Mathis and Smiley to remain at tackle and guard respectively, and (so far) keeping Lomax second string at center.
A lot of players are very happy to have Mike Price as head coach, especially the quarterbacks and wide receivers. But no individual athlete has benefitted more than junior David Cavan. More talented catching the ball than blocking, Cavan was second string under the previous staff. But his hands and size (6-4, 259) make him a prototype tight end in a Mike Price offense. So far this spring Cavan has flourished.
Sometimes players can get pigeon-holed as second-stringers, and that probably happened somewhat to senior Dennis Alexander. But to his credit, when Coach Mike Price was first hired Alexander made it a point to be in Tuscaloosa and at the press conference, so he could meet his new coach. And when Offensive Line Coach Bobby Connelly arrived, Alexander was there waiting to talk. The two set out a game plan, that includes requiring Alexander to lose weight. So far "Big Sexy" has done his part, and Alexander has been running first string at right guard all spring.
The battle for placekicker is far from over, but so far this spring junior Brian Bostick (#22) has impressed the Tide coaches. A walk-on who briefly was No. 1 for the Tide last season, Bostick has kicked very well this spring and would have to be considered co-No. 1 along with Kyle Robinson. Bostick is getting good height and distance on his efforts, and has been as consistent as anyone.
Easily one of the best current squad members that Bama fans have "never seen," redshirt freshman Kenneth Darby's climb up the depth chart was not a surprise to practice observers. But he deserves plenty of credit for his excellent efforts this spring. A combination of speed and strength, Darby is a virtual co-No. 1 at tailback with returning starter Shaud Williams. Williams' experience, elusiveness and skill as a receiver may have him barely ahead, but Darby's explosion through the line and blocking ability have caught the coaches' attention.
Heading into spring few fans wondered about the first-string quarterback, but finding a talented back-up signal caller was a definite concern. Spencer Pennington's play has put those worries to rest. The sophomore has picked the offense up quickly, showing a real presence on the field. Brodie Croyle's starting position is almost certainly still secure, but Coach Price said Saturday that Pennington was "definitely battling" for the job. Pennington's efforts this spring have definitely helped himself (and Alabama).
Treated by the previous staff as no better than the fourth receiver on the team, senior Zach Fletcher has had as good a spring as any of Bama's wideouts--arguably the best. Combining height, good speed and very good hands, Fletcher is made to order for Bama's new down-the-field passing attack. "You'd like all your receivers to be Zach Fletchers," was how position coach Eric Price described Fletcher's physical skills.