Upcoming Alabama junior wide receiver DeAndrew White has come a long way since being carted from the field in the Ole Miss game last year. He returned after halftime on crutches and within a week had surgery following the season-ending knee injury suffered against the Rebels.
He was one of three wide receivers who would be lost to injury in 2012. Chris Black, who was redshirted and will be a freshman this season, suffered a shoulder injury early in fall camp last year, msising the entire season. Kenny Bell, an upcoming senior, suffered a broken leg against Auburn after having caught 17 passes for 421 yards and three touchdowns, including an 85-yard bomb that was Bama’s longest pass play of the season.
White had 8 catches for 105 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown reception against Michigan in the opening game of the year. before being injured.
White gave an indication that he is well on his way to recovery in the Crimson Tide’s first scrimmage of spring practice Saturday. He was Bama’s leading receiver with seven receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Following the scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban discussed the three wide receivers.
“DeAndrew white is doing really well,” Saban said. ‘He did a really good job today, made some big plays. Kenny is probably the guy who has been the slowest coming back, but actually he is staring to look like the Kenny Bell of old at times. Chris Black has been fine the whole time this spring.
“I think psychologically all these guys still have to sort of get over the fact that, ‘I was hurt.’ I think that just takes a lot of repetitions. We haven’t hit some of those guys so far. As we practice and they get hit, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I didn’t get hurt again.’ It’s a little bit of a work in progress for them, psychologically, to get the confidence they need that they’re really not hurt. But they’ve done a really good job, all those guys.”
Saturday’s 130-play, two-hour scrimmage was the eighth of 15 practices this spring. There will be another scrimmage next Saturday and the A-Day Game on April 20 will conclude spring drills. Saturday’s practice was in perfect conditions. But the scrimmage was far from perfect to hear Saban tell it.
“We’re not where we want to be or would like to be,” said the coach. “We’ve got a lot of work to do with a lot of guys. It all starts with guys being able to sustain the kind of mental intensity you need to have to be a good football player, especially when things get a little bit tough. It’s a little bit hot, you’re a little bit tired. We just don’t have the mental toughness that we need with enough guys to sustain things, pay attention to detail, do the little things right so we can execute better as a team.
“We can make excuses for them in terms of coming back after three practices after spring break, but if everybody would have done what they were supposed to do over spring break, I don’t think we would’ve had some of the issues that we have right now, so I’m not necessarily pleased with enough guys.
“We had some guys that played very, very well out there. AJ (quarterbackAJ McCarron) did a good job, (back-up quarterback) Blake Sims did a good job out there. The runners did a pretty good job, we had a couple of receivers that did a good job. Defensively, we had some guys play well.
“But it’s kind of hit and miss right now. We don’t have enough guys doing the right things the right way all the time and that’s something we really need to work on.
“Now, it’s probably what you would expect at this point in the spring. It’s a work in progress to try to continue to improve to do the things we need to do and how the players respond to that will determine how quickly we get those things done. That’s the goal, that’s why you have spring practice and that’s what we need to really focus on to try and get done. But a lot of young guys out there that can have a role on this team and can help us that really need to focus on what they need to do to improve, have a better understanding of what’s expected of them and they need to do it.
“We have to do a good job coaching them, we have to do a good job of helping them, we have to do a good job of trying to instill these things in them and convince them how important it is for us to do that individually so that we can collectively improve as a team.”
Although Saban has pointed out in the past that a look at the statistics is not necessarily giving a clear picture as to what goes on in a closed scrimmage (because we don’t know who the statistics were compiled against; big offensive stats against the first defense mean more than against back-ups), it’s the only picture we have from a closed scrimmage.
McCarron completed 15 of 28 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns while throwing one interception to C.J. Mosley. He found DeAndrew White a scrimmage-high seven times for 132 yards and two touchdowns – on throws of 43 and five yards. Amari Cooper also added 120 yards receiving on three catches and one score while contributing the longest play of the afternoon on a 71-yard strike from McCarron that did not go for points.
Blake Sims completed 13 of 19 passes for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception. True freshman Parker McLeod completed a 33-yard touchdown pass.
T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake both ran well with Drake leading the way with 85 yards on 11 carries. He broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run up the middle and averaged 7.7 yards per rush. Yeldon carried 16 times for 63 yards and one score while freshman Derrick Henry ran rushed 12 times for 52 yards and added 27 yards receiving.
Senior Tana Patrick led the defense with six tackles while senior cornerback Deion Belue added five stops with a tackle for loss and one pass breakup. Trey DePreist, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Denzel Devall and Landon Collins all contributed four tackles. DePriest, Devall, Ed Stinson and Dillon Lee also had one sack each. Clinton-Dix had two pass break-ups.
The statistics came from scrimmage work, situational drills, red zone work, goalline practice, and the two-minute drill.
Saban had the following comments in answer to question:
Regarding the kicking game:
“We weren’t really trying to practice assignments or practice live. We didn’t get as many field goal opportunities as I really wanted to get and the ones we did get were all over 50 yards. I think we made one. But the protection wasn’t as good as it needed to be. But we’ve got to continue to work on all those things. We punted the ball well, that part of it was pretty good. The kickoff coverage and kickoff return was pretty good. We’ve got a ways to go as far as field goal and punt return and those things but we haven’t worked on those things enough, to be honest with you, especially at this point in the spring. So it’s really hard to evaluate them.”
How is practice going with eight quarterbacks trying to get work?
“I think what we’ve tried to do is get everybody an equal opportunity. But we’ve kind of got to pick who is going to get the reps, trying to pick the four guys who are going to get the reps that particular day – especially with the ones and the twos.
“Today we actually had Blake play about a third of the time with the ones so that he had an opportunity to do that. So we would have a few more reps for some of the other guys with the twos and the threes. But everybody got a chance today, some guys a little more than others. Probably in the next scrimmage we’ll sort of shake it up and do it a different way so that all the guys get an opportunity, as well.”
How have the early enrollees looked in general and Henry and Howard in particular?
“They’re doing fine. Derrick Henry, obviously, is a guy that has flashed at times of being a big, fast, strong guy. He made a few plays today. Certainly is a guy that can help us in some areas of our team next year. I think O.J. Howard is very athletic and a very good pass receiver. Definitely needs to work on blocking and that type of thing – which he didn’t do much in high school. So it’s what you would expect a guy to have to do. I think everybody else is sort of where we think … they would be. We just need to work hard to get them where they need to be.”
How did the players handle the first hitting/tackling situations?
“It wasn’t bad. There were some good hits out there. There was some aggressiveness. I just didn’t think the overall intensity of the scrimmage was what I’d like for it to be. I think a lot of that is uncertainty. We have a lot of players who haven’t been in this situation before.
“I think we’ll make a big improvement as a team from scrimmage one to scrimmage two.”