Photo credit: al.com
A look at some of the things that stood out during Alabama's only public practice of the preseason:
Corners look sharp
Ever since spring practice, Crimson Cover has been telling you that Alabama’s play in the defensive front seven should not suffer overall for the losses of several starters from 2013, and would in fact be improved this fall. If Saturday’s practice was any indication, improvement in the secondary can be expected, as well. Alabama’s cornerbacks, a major question mark entering the season, should get a significant boost from not only freshman Tony Brown (pictured), but incoming 5-star recruit Marlon Humphrey, as well. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart commented on Brown’s hunger for knowledge and film study, and sophomore Eddie Jackson is apparently well on the road to recovery from a serious knee injury. Brown made a spectacular one-handed interception of new quarterback Jacob Coker. The battle to watch in fall camp is that of veteran Bradley Sylve, who is vying for the first starting role of his career, and a host of challengers that include Humphrey.
Hold the applause on Coker
New quarterback Jacob Coker certainly has shown all the arm strength he was reputed to have after transferring from Florida State. There is no doubt, he can put a ton of velocity on the ball. After a few early camp practices, however, particularly in Sunday’s open practice, it was apparent that a lot of his misfires consistently sailed high. That’s a concern if you’re Nick Saban, who values ball security as much as anything in a quarterback, because high throws end up in enemy hands a lot more than low throws. Three-year starter AJ McCarron rarely overthrew receivers, and when he did, it was typically on deep routes that overthrew all — defense included. But avoiding high throws on intermediate routes is one reason McCarron threw just 15 interceptions in almost 700 career pass attempts. Coker has plenty of physical tools, to be sure. But sailing passes high in game action could spell trouble for the former Seminole. Few expect veteran reserve Blake Sims to win the starting job. If the majority opinion turns out to be wrong, however, ball security could be a primary reason.
WRs look deep
At the wide receiver position, Alabama appears to have some impressive depth behind veterans Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White. Whether it takes the field in the form of Chris Black, Robert Foster, Cam Sims, ArDarius Stewart or another youngster remains to be seen (Foster and Stewart looked the best of the younger group to us on Sunday). One thing we know from history is that you pretty much need to be in the top four to see regular action against key opponents. The fifth and sixth receivers will see most of their time late in lopsided wins, unless an injury forces their promotion. As such, the battle to be Alabama’s No. 4 behind Cooper, Jones and White will definitely be one to watch in camp.
Lane Kiffin hinted in his remarks Sunday that tight end O.J. Howard is bring groomed more for a traditional, in-line tight end role rather than as a flex tight end who can receive from the slot. That doesn’t mean Howard won’t see some action split wide, but it speaks well to his progress as a blocker. It also makes the Alabama offense less predictable when he is on the field, because if Howard’s hand is on the ground next to an offensive tackle, his presence doesn’t tip the defense quite as much.
Crimson Cover sources close to the program have said there is plenty of excitement on the staff about freshman linebacker Rashaan Evans, and the former 5-star recruit looked very fluid and athletic at practice Sunday. A number of freshman defenders are in a good position to help the Crimson Tide this fall, but among the front-seven group, Evans and end Da’Shawn Hand look like they may be the best bets.
RB Kenyan Drake struggled to catch a wet ball when it began raining at the start of practice, dropping two consecutive passes — one of which was intercepted after bouncing off Drake’s hands. … QB Alex Morris looked inconsistent, and the gap between he and Cooper Bateman for the No. 3 role appears to be a big one. … Look for Dominick Jackson, a JuCo transfer guard, to make a very serious push for a starting role in camp. Freshman guard Josh Casher is raw, but shows excellent technique and potential for a first-year player. … On the other side of the ball, freshman nose guard Josh Frazier looks much like Darren Lake did when Lake arrived on campus: Big, strong and physical.