(From back on 4/18) Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

ElkhartTider

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I posted this info on TiderInsider a few months back and completely forgot to share with you guys over here in the midst of a very busy semester of school!

Some background... I coach high school football up here in the shadow of the Golden Dome and I was lucky enough to be allowed to come watch practice on April 18th (our last spring practice before A-Day). It was honestly a dream come true. Amazing experience... lost my breath walking onto the practice field.

Sorry for the format of these notes... I was working off of 12 pages of scribbled nonsense from my note pad!

Here it goes...

- Very quick transitions between practice periods.

- Players were only in helmets which was very disappointing for me! I was really hoping to see some live action.

- The tempo of practice was surprising to me. We practiced as though we were a no huddle team. At times I thought I was watching an Oregon practice. Seemed we were in a two minute situation the whole time especially during offensive periods (which is my side of the ball and where I spent most of the practice). I would imagine our staff is trying to adapt to the climate of college football and these quicker no huddle teams like A&M. Speaking of we're going to castrate them this season.

- All I'll say is we ran quite a bit of pistol.

- You could mistake AJ for a coach. Several times during practice I took note of him ordering players around and instructing younger guys, regardless of position.

- The #2 QB position to me is pretty clear after watching practice. Blake was getting the reps at #2 but I highly doubt he'd be our guy if (God forbid, knock on wood, etc...) AJ went down. Alec looked very good in practice and we saw that in the A-Day game also. Clearly Coach is grooming Alec to take over for AJ next season.

- Blake has gotten better overall in pocket presence and stepping up in pressure etc. but still throws a sidearm ball which isn't very accurate most of the time.

- Working behind Cyrus at LT was #58 Brandon Greene.

- John Fulton was working in drills in black. He looked good. No physical signs of injury.

- Xzavier Dickson was on a bike the whole time with another coach/staffer who was also on a bike with him. Most of the time he was casually pedaling watching practice but there were several quick increments of intense pedaling.

- Norwood was power walking much of the time. A strength and conditioning coach was working with him and power walking along side. He also did some pretty intense balance drills with a medicine ball... catching it with his eyes closed and the ball being thrown at him from about 5 yards. The coach would yell ball about 2 ft from his hands.

- Like others have said, Cristobal is a very intense coach.

- Our first O line was Cyrus, Arie, Kelly, Steen, & Shepherd

- 2nd O line was Greene, Kellen, Lindsay, Luatua, & Brown

- Chad Lindsay worries me at center. Some erratic snaps.

- I observed some of our TE's and H's splitting out quite a bit, like we've done in the past. I love this. Either the opposition is putting thier best corner on a TE/H or their taking a LB and removing him from the box and putting him in unfamiliar territory.

- OJ Howard spent most of the practice at Y or our in line TE. He looks much bigger than I thought he was. I knew he was tall but he was solid. Bigger than Faciane. Faciance will probably compare to a guy like Travis McCall from a few years ago. Looks like a better blocker than receiver. OJ was moved around quite a bit, saw him in several different spots. He'll be a match up nightmare for defenses for the next few years. Much like Eifert was for ND.

- Don't worry about Ryan Kelly. He may be lighter but he's got an extremely thick/strong base and he's very fundamentally sound. I can see why our staff/team is so high on him. Very quick snap.

- At least in this practice, it appears that our starters at corner were Belue(field) and Cyrus Jones(boundary).

- Saw AJ and Amari hook up on deep routes several times throughout the day. One that stuck out was a beautiful skinny post from Amari. Perfect pass from AJ. Made it look easy.

- Our starter at H this season will be Harrison Jones. He even lined up at fullback a few times... so did Kurt Frietag. He'll also play H in the future from what I can tell.

- Our new recruiting specialist from Ole Miss, Tyler Siskey went out of his way to introduce himself to me. Seems like a good dude.

- Phillip Ely's release is very slow. I watched it several times during practice because I thought that it couldn't consistently be that slow. Also noticed him holding on to the ball way too long. On the other hand, Alec Morris's release is pretty quick.

- Like any good team does with it's #1 receiver I noticed our offense in many formations that had Amari isolated on one side of the formation with trips to the other side.

- Seemed like the practice was set up almost like a high school practice in that there were two separate practices going on. Varsity and JV if you will... Younger guys and reserves were doing the same thing just on a different field.

- During a 1's vs. 1's O/D period, AJ and CJ were BATTLING. Obviously two very competitive guys. AJ would audible and then CJ would follow every time. Other observers were laughing on the sidelines. They were almost screaming at each other! Funny stuff.

- As I've heard before John Fulton is one of our best "talkers" on the team. He was yapping at DeAndrew White quite a bit after one play! "Where ya at 2!" Cool to see how playful these guys are with each other.

- One really cool part of practice happened behind me as I was observing. Coach Cochran was talking to a few former players who were all probably in their 80's. They were prodding him for information and they were probably about a foot behind me and Coach Cochran was literally whispering... (if you can believe that). He told them that working for Coach Saban is a dream. He said Saban is a relentless competitor (which we already know) and Coach Saban shocks him sometimes with how relentless and driven he is.. wish he would've shared some stories! He also said that Brandon Hill is "causing him to go bald and will drive him into retirement." He said that it us simply up to him if he wants to lose the weigh to compete for a job in the future. Said that Alphonse Taylor is down to 335lbs. The older guys asked him who the strongest players on the team were and he quickly responded with Steen/Lake. Which are obviously both good signs! I've got high hopes for Lake.

- Vogler spent a lot of time in between reps personally tutoring OJ.

- Alec Morris's right foot was heavily taped.

- Fowler lined up at fullback in goal line situations during practice. I'm very happy that we will see him at fullback some more this season! Hope we continue to run 'I' formation as well.

- When we were in two tight end sets OJ was the backside TE.

- Return guys that I saw were Amari, Cyrus Jones, and Dee Hart.

- I've seen it in pics before but seeing Reggie Ragland in person was unbelievable. I've never seen a bigger lower body on a human. His upper body is big too but it looks like God intended his lower body to be that of a defensive tackle and his upper body a Mike linebacker.

- Jai Miller is huge. Not sure if he'll ever contribute but he'll look great coming off the bus.

- Like I said, I was upset that I didn't get to observe a practice while they were in pads but the scrimmage and walk through periods of practice were PHYSICAL. I think Yeldon forgot once that nobody was in pads he jumped into a gap and plowed through a few guys.

- Antonio Langham was at practice.

- Amari just has a special ability of getting behind a defense. Sounds simple but he has a knack for slipping behind safeties. Like in the A&M game on that long pass toward the end for a TD. He slipped behind our defense several times in practice.

- Kenyan Drake was in with the 1's quite a bit during our two minute period.

- Coach Saban was on the field coaching at all times. A huge difference from what at I saw the week earlier at the ND coaching clinic. We were allowed to go to two of their spring practices as an attendee of their clinic. Coach Kelly was simply observing practice, at times standing way behind the action talking to random people, possibly recruiting but still... I was impressed with Coach Saban.

- At the end there was another two minute situation period AJ led the team down the field and the drive stalled at around the 20 yard line. He came off the field and was standing right in front of me. He came off the field complaining LOUDLY about play calling. He was ....ed that we were "taking shots on 3rd and 5." I was initially concerned about it but I remembered how competitive he is and saw him talking to Coach Nuss afterward.

- I watched Luke Del Rio, Bateman, and Parker throwing quite a bit. Luke and Cooper have pretty quick releases that are way over the top. Look good. Parker looked good also but his release is slower and very long.. if that makes any sense.

- One thing I found interesting is Vinnie was our 2nd holder, behind AJ.

Again... just my takeaways from one day of practice. Hope you guys enjoy.

This was seriously a dream come true for me. Had to catch my breath walking in to the football building and walking on to the practice field. It was hard at times to remember that I was watching as a coach and not a fan! Everyone that I encountered at the University was first class from the secretaries that helped me get into practice to Coach Siskey and former players that I met.

Here is a pretty cool picture that I found of me at practice a few days afterward from AL.com.

I'm behind Coach Thompson in the maroon polo (my school's colors) & crimson Bama hat.



Any questions just ask!

ROLL TIDE ROLL!
 
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RTR91

Super Moderator
Nov 23, 2007
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

- Very quick transitions between practice periods.

- Players were only in helmets which was very disappointing for me! I was really hoping to see some live action.

- The tempo of practice was surprising to me. We practiced as though we were a no huddle team. At times I thought I was watching an Oregon practice. Seemed we were in a two minute situation the whole time especially during offensive periods (which is my side of the ball and where I spent most of the practice). I would imagine our staff is trying to adapt to the climate of college football and these quicker no huddle teams like A&M. Speaking of we're going to castrate them this season.
I remember listening to Julio on the pregame show for the Capital One Bowl. He said the offense loves going hurry up in games because that is how they practice. His comment surprised me because I didn't understand why would practice that way without doing it on a consistent basis in games.

- OJ Howard spent most of the practice at Y or our in line TE. He looks much bigger than I thought he was. I knew he was tall but he was solid. Bigger than Faciane. Faciance will probably compare to a guy like Travis McCall from a few years ago. Looks like a better blocker than receiver. OJ was moved around quite a bit, saw him in several different spots. He'll be a match up nightmare for defenses for the next few years. Much like Eifert was for ND.
OJ's skill set gives the offense the ability to use him in some ways other TEs have not been used at Alabama. Hope he works his way into the rotation for this season.

- Our starter at H this season will be Harrison Jones. He even lined up at fullback a few times... so did Kurt Frietag. He'll also play H in the future from what I can tell.

- Fowler lined up at fullback in goal line situations during practice. I'm very happy that we will see him at fullback some more this season! Hope we continue to run 'I' formation as well.
Wonder if this means Bama will run more I-formation than previous years. I know Fowler's injury last year caused any I-formation use to slow down. (Let's be honest, Kelly Johnson isn't Jalston Fowler.)

- One thing I found interesting is Vinnie was our 2nd holder, behind AJ.
I remember him being the holder last year and possibly the year before.
 

Go Bama

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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Awesome read, ET. I wish you'd have posted it sooner. Great insight.
 

TIDE-HSV

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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

For you guys complaining about light-hearted ITAT threads, here's some meat for you. Elkhart posted this at my request...
 

jabcmb

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Feb 1, 2006
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

I wish we could get more eye witness stuff like this! Great job Elkhart, and good luck at your high school this coming season.
 

TideMan09

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Jan 17, 2009
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Awesome post..Stuff like this helps us get us through the off season without going completely insane..I kinda like the idea of running more of an up tempo offense at times..It may just be me..I thought our offense looked its best when we went into the 2 minute drill on offense..And absolutely loved hearing us running out of the "Pistol"..I think our running game was most dominant when we ran out of the "Pistol"..
 

BigBama76

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Oct 26, 2011
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Since you may be able to get access maybe we should setup a fund to pay for a couple of days this summer to file reports. One on the offense and one on the defense.
 

MBA_99

1st Team
Jan 11, 2010
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Love the meaty post. Borders on giving away strategy, but I dare Va Tech to come off a J Fowler block in the I formation even if they know it's coming.
 

MOAN

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Aug 30, 2010
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

I can only imagine how awesome an experience that was for you, thanks so much! If any thread should be a sticky till the season starts this one should! Or I should say when fall practice begins. ;) ROLL TIDE ROLL!!! :)
 
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ElkhartTider

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Jan 13, 2005
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Since you may be able to get access maybe we should setup a fund to pay for a couple of days this summer to file reports. One on the offense and one on the defense.
Haha.. hey now I like that idea!

Seriously though, they can expect me every spring from now on if they'll have me! Unforgettable experience. Hopefully it could turn into a grad assistant/intern type thing after I graduate but I'm afraid I don't have the ins for that.

Thanks for all the kind words! My pleasure being able to contribute to the board and 'tide' you guys over till the fall!
 

BigBama76

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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Haha.. hey now I like that idea!

Seriously though, they can expect me every spring from now on if they'll have me! Unforgettable experience. Hopefully it could turn into a grad assistant/intern type thing after I graduate but I'm afraid I don't have the ins for that.

Thanks for all the kind words! My pleasure being able to contribute to the board and 'tide' you guys over till the fall!
Hope your dream comes true. I'm sure many of us here will be pulling for you. Good luck.
 

Florida Tom

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Aug 15, 2011
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Sounds like we could use you on staff, great post & thanks for sharing.

I saw CNS spending a lot of time with Morris at A Day & agree with your assessments.

One big question is going to be Drake or Henry as #2 back?

Some of these guys just look like NFL players already.
 

Ole Man Dan

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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Sounds like we could use you on staff, great post & thanks for sharing.

I saw CNS spending a lot of time with Morris at A Day & agree with your assessments.

One big question is going to be Drake or Henry as #2 back?

Some of these guys just look like NFL players already.
I expect Drake to begin the season at #2, after that Henry may get more PT. We'll see how Henry's rehab goes. I expect he may be full speed by game #1. What can I say... We have an embarrassment of riches at Running Back. IMO: We will see lots of teams dare AJ to pass. They must line up to stop the run. On Offense I expect every team we play to think they are TAMU of last year. Some teams will get killed trying to do that. ;)
 

RTR91

Super Moderator
Nov 23, 2007
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Re: 4/18 Spring Practice Observations... (LONG)

Sounds like we could use you on staff, great post & thanks for sharing.

I saw CNS spending a lot of time with Morris at A Day & agree with your assessments.

One big question is going to be Drake or Henry as #2 back?

Some of these guys just look like NFL players already.
Drake's experience will win out over Henry. Let's not forget about Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny, either.
 

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