Who's Catching On?

Will Oakley is healthy in the summer

Think "Skeleton." Depending on your age and interest, the image is likely to be either the new pirate movie or summer football drills. Football work consists in great part of passing practice, and that includes a lot of work for wide receivers.

Pass Skel, as the practice is known, consists of the backs and receivers (including tight ends) working against defensive backs and linebackers. There are no coaches and the quarterback is expected to get the drills organized and keep them running. The offensive players are running the bare bones of actual pass plays, as well as working on the skills of passing and catching and getting conditioning work. Defenders work on coverage techniques.

Two top hands from 2005 Alabama football are not participating in the summer workouts. Tyrone Prothro hobbles out to the Crimson Tide practice field on crutches and offers advice and encouragement, but is not being counted on for 2006 play. He hopes to return in 2007. D.J. Hall is at his home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The story from his teammates is that he has to take care of some sort of family business and that he will return for pre-season practice in August.

With Prothro out and Hall at least questionable and with Ezekiel Knight having made the switch from not-very-productive wide receiver to defensive end, experienced depth does not appear to be a Crimson Tide strength for this season.

Keith Brown is a returning starter and an established big-play receiver. Matt Caddell has limited experience. Aaron McDaniel, a high school quarterback, is making the move from defensive back to wide receiver in his third year at Bama.

But John Parker Wilson, who is poised to take over at quarterback this fall, seems satisfied with what he has seen of the receivers. (He's also confident Hall will return. "I've kept in contact with him," Wilson said. "He's doing what he needs to do.")

Wilson said, "Keith Brown, of course, has been good." The 6-3, 185-pound junior was second only to Hall last season.

Sophomore Will Oakley has been plagued with hamstring problems in his two years at Alabama. "I think Will Oakley has made great strides," Wilson said of the former Florida prep football and track star. "He's the best he's been since I've been here. He's finally healthy. His speed is back to where it was and he's running great routes."

Alabama had hoped to get some help from junior college transfer Nikita Stover, who joined the Tide in time for spring practice. The 6-2, 205-pound sophomore (in football eligibility) showed some early flashes, but suffered a groin pull and missed much of spring practice. Wilson said, "Nikita is just now getting healthy. Last week was the first time he was full speed, so he looks a little rusty."

Although Alabama signed just one wide receiver out of high school in February, many expect three other freshmen signees to work at wide receiver this fall. Mike McCoy is a wide receiver. Jake Jones was a high school safety; Earl Alexander, a quarterback, and Javier Arenas, a cornerback and kick returner, are all expected to be at Bama beginning next week when the second semester of summer school begins. And all are expected to get a look at wide receiver positions in fall camp.

McCoy, a 6-2, 195-pounder, made the two-hour trip from Brandon, Mississippi, to Tuscaloosa to work out with his future teammates for the past few weeks. Wilson said, "Mike McCoy comes up on his own to work out with us and he looks good. The first few days he was a little nervous, but he has come a long way since then and I think he is really going to help us."

Jones, a 6-1, 180-pounder from Mountain Brook, is the son of one of Bama's best wide receivers, Joey Jones, who was Jake's head coach in high school. Wilson said Jones has been working at wideout during the summer. Wilson said, "He runs quick, crisp routes. I think he has a chance to come in and help us."

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