Nick Perry didn't expect to be here, but he's glad he is. In last year's second game of the season…
Alabama held its first scrimmage of spring practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. When it was over, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said he was "really pleased with the effort and intensity. I really like the attitude of this team, how they work and the effort that they give, the menatl and physical toughness they play with. A lot of guys come out and are conscientious to do a good job, and I think it shows in the way we play and the way we compete.
"The togetherness on the team is, to me, a lot better. I said back in the beginning that we're starting over in terms of starting a new program and going back to reemphasize the basic fundamental things that we thought made the program successful to start with. Everybody has to buy into that, and I like the way the players have responded. I like the leadership we have so far on this team."
The bad news was that two Bama defensive players suffered injuries, one that sounds like it may be worse than the other.
Getting down to specifics meant getting down to a discussion of the quarterbacks.
"Obviously we're not satisfied with where we are in terms of our execution as a team, but there were a lot of good things. Guys made some big plays on offense, had some good runs. The running backs played well. We ran the ball pretty effectively. We made some plays in the passing game. I thought when we were in moving field stuff, the offense had nice intensity and was crisp in their execution. Some of the situational stuff maybe we didn't do quite as well, so there's plenty of room for improvement on some of those things."
And more specific.
"I think the quarterbacks really did a good job," Saban said. "I think the stats are pretty good for what they were able to accomplish. They've been pretty consistent throughout the spring. I think that, as a team, when we get in certain situations we have not been able to respond very well. And I think that it's a matter of the whole team. The pass protection needs to be better. The quarterback's got to do a little bit better job. So when we're in play-action, move the field, running it, throwing it, getting the ball out of our hand quick, we do a nice job. But we get too much pressure in the pocket, so the quarterbacks can't operate, which we've got to get cleaned up with the offensive line so that the guys have a better chance to function. But I think that all the guys have done a good job of progressing throughout the spring."
In the 125-play scrimmage, the senior Sims had the good judgment to throw the football to All-America wide receiver candidate Amari Cooper. Sims completed 16 of 23 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns and Cooper caught 10 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. One of the touchdowns was a 75-yard bomb from Sims to Cooper.
Saban said, "Blake has had a really good spring and has taken some command. Cooper Bateman has made a lot of improvement. He's done a nice job. Alec's still competing. Those three guys have sort of emerged as the three guys that look like they're most ready to play. Nobody's disappointed in anybody else. We actually feel like our freshman (David Cornwell), who is coming off of an injury, has a lot of potential. He's just not 100 per cent healthy yet.
"So we're pleased with the progress those guys have made.
Alabama released the statistical leaders following the scrimmage. In addition to Sims, redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman completed 14 of 25 passes for 102 yards and sophomore Alec Morris was good on 9-12 for 57 yards.
Kenyan Drake was the leading rusher in the scrimmage with 11 runs for 60 yards and a touchdown. Tyren Jones had 10 carries for 49 yards. Derrick Henry had 12 for 40 yards, Altee Tenpenny 13-40, and T.J. Yeldon 7-20.
Saban said, "We have three running backs that I think have really had good springs so far – T.J., Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry have all been outstanding this spring."
After Cooper's 10 catches for 190 yards and two TDs, freshman Cam Sims had two receptions for 48 yards, Tenpenny three for 23 yards, Christion Jones 3-21, and Raheem Falkins 2-21.
Saban's discussion of the wide receivers started with clarification on the status of DeAndrew White – that status being thaty he will not participate this spring. White, who has a toe problem, has not been involved in practice and won't be this spring, Saban said. The speedster is doing light running on the anti-gravity treadmill, running in the rehabilitation pool, "really working hard." He said "Those toes are something you don't want to push guys on. We've had really good luck with the couple of guys who have had these issues, Kevin Norwood a year ago, Eddie Lacy a year before that. We don't anticipate he'll be here for the spring, but we do feel like when June rolls around and we get started in the summer conditioning program he'll be fine."
As for those who are practicing, Saban said, "I think our receivers have done a nice job this spring. Christion Jones has been really, really good all spring. So has Amari Cooper. Chris Black is developing. Some of the young guys are developing. So we're pleased with the progress that we've made. We feel like there's three guys if we can throw DeAndrew White in there with Amari Cooper and Christion Jones that have a lot of experience and a lot of ability."
Saban said, "The first defense did a pretty good job, but after that the tackling wasn't what it needs to be. I thought we made too many mental errors with too many other guys to get the kind of execution that we'd like to get on a consistent basis."
Senior inside linebacker Trey DePriest led the defense with eight tackles. Linebcker Denzel Devall had five tackles (two for loss) and sack and linebacker Reggie Ragland five tackles plus two sacks and a pass broken up. Safeties also made plays, Landon Collins four tackles (one for loss) and a blocked field goal and Jarrick Williams with four tackles and two passes broken up.
Asked about DePriest, Saban said, "Trey's done a great job all spring. He's really done a good job from a leadership standpoint. He's really had a good spring so far. He really has practiced well, tries to finish plays, tries to be a good example for all the other players. He's really done a nice job.
Reuben Foster is doing fine, he just has this problem every now and then with his neck that we've had to deal with, but he's made nice progress. I think Reggie (Ragland) is making improvement. Just consistency with those guys – understanding their run fits, understanding their pass coverage all the time, how to do it, being consistent with it. But those three guys have done a really good job.
"I think (true freshman) Shaun Dion Hamilton is a guy that has shown some promise. Walker Jones is finally over his surgery so he's kind of doing some things. But the inside guys, they've made pretty good progress."
As to that injury by Foster, he was included in Bama's Saturday injury report.
"We had two guys that were injured today.," Saban said following the scrimmage.
"Eddie Jackson hurt his knee -- non-contact, just jumped up in the air for a ball and came down funny. He'll have an MRI tomorrow and we'll go from there. Reuben Foster has a stinger, a neck stinger. He started out the scrimmage fine. I think he will be fine. But he wasn't able to finish. Other than that, I don't think we have any other injuries that are significant. I don't really think Reuben -- this is something Reuben has been sort of dealing with all spring long. It kind of was a little bit of a neck stinger (inaudible) and you have to shut them down for a while."
Discussion of the secondary also brought up another injury suffered by a Tide football player. The player, though, was not injured playing football, but rather running track.
True freshman Tony Brown had taken part in track in the indoor season and was working the two sports during spring football practice. Maybe not anymore.
Brown injured his shoulder following his senior season when he was injured in the Under Armour All-America Game. Earlier this week in track practice, Saban said Brown fell over a hurdle and reinjured the shoulder. Saban said Brown would not participate in Bama's track meeting following Saturday's practice and indicated he might be finished with track for the year. The Tide coach said that Brown was practicing in a black jersey, but added "he doesn't have any other issues with it. I'm not sure exactly how much more track he'll do the rest of the spring. But we have a schedule that says what he's able to do. He's done a good job of managing both of those things. We feel like he's made a lot of progress and learned a lot by splitting time at spring practice."
Otherwise in the secondary, Saban said, "Landon Collins has really done a good job this spring. Geno Smith's done a good job this spring. Eddie (Jackson) was having a great spring and probably our best corner, most consistent. Bradley Sylve has had a really good spring and doing a good job.
"We've just got to keep working and developing depth. Feel like have a few more guys that have a good understanding of what we're doing. We just seem to not be making as many mental errors as we have in the past at this time.
"I think every player should be thinking about the same thing: I'm not disappointed with where I'm at, but I'm also not satisfied with where I'm at. So we all need to take it one day at a time and do the things that we need to do to focus on the improvement that we need to make to become a better football team."
Alabama will return to the practice field Monday and will have its second scrimmage of the spring next Saturday. Spring practice ends with the A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 19.