Football

What two days of pad thumping tells us

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Alabama Football: The two most recent spring practice sessions for the Crimson Tide have been in pads. Check out the main Tide thumpers so far.

In the old days of Alabama football, spring practices were grueling. They are no less intense today but the intensity does not last as long. There are no two-a-day practice schedules. The total number of sessions is limited to 15 and that includes two regular scrimmages and a third ‘glorified’ scrimmage presented as the A-Day game.

As Nick Saban said a couple of days ago, it takes the early practices in pads and at least one scrimmage before any accurate read on players. That does not mean players can wait to stand-out. The Alabama Football roster is so loaded with talent, every session, almost every snap creates movement up and down the pecking order at each position.

Spring is also a time for player experiments. Many players will be tried at multiple positions to learn where and how they can make the most contribution.

New starters will be needed at key positions for the Crimson Tide. The positions of greatest need are on the offensive line, at wide receiver and at cornerback. With the exits of Leatherwood, Dickerson and Brown and the unavailability of Emil Ekiyor this spring, there are holes to fill.

Much has been made of the incoming offensive line class. It could prove to be the best for Alabama football in quite some time; maybe ever. Will any of the new guys crack the starting lineup against Miami? It is too early to know, but based on two days in pads, it could be J.C. Latham has a chance.

The coaching staff cannot know yet if Latham, Tommy Brockermeyer, Terrence Ferguson or James Brockermeyer can develop fast enough to contribute in the fall. Latham is probably the most athletically gifted but has less playing experience as a high school offensive lineman. He played defensive line (and basketball) as a high school freshman and sophomore.  The Brockermeyer brothers need to add weight.

So far, lining up with the offensive line first unit are Evan Neal and Chris Owens, plus redshirt junior Tommy Brown, sophomore Damieon George Jr.. and sophomore Javion Cohen. The sophomores did well in limited play last season. Both are physical players able to dominate opposing defensive linemen. George is one of the Tide’s biggest offensive lineman. He is not Evan Neal large but at 6-feet-6 and 345 pounds is imposing. As recruits, Brown, George and Cohen did not have the elite player cred of some of the younger guys. That cred does mean anything on a college practice field and any of three, less-heralded, Tide players could start in 2021.

Some early spring buzz is coming from guys at wide receiver and cornerback. The competition will continue into the fall. So far, Alabama football insiders say wide receivers,  Agiye Hal and Javon Baker and cornerback, Jalyn Armour-Davis are looking good.

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