Itís been awhile since my last blog, but I thought that last Saturdayís A-Day game was the perfect opportunity to get back in the proverbial game.First, let me once again congratulate the Alabama fan base for another phenomenal turn-out.This year, we had over 84,000 fans in attendance, which ranks as the second highest attendance ever for a spring game.It is worth noting that we also hold the Number 1 and Number 3 spots on that list.This type of fan support is huge for our program.Several players have commented on how much that meant to see that kind of support, and several recruits have also commented on how impressive that type of support is to them.So once again, congratulations to the Bama nation for another phenomenal A-Day game!
As for the game itself, itís kind of hard to form too much of an opinion, simply because weíre effectively playing ourselves, so any good play by the offense can be viewed as a bad play by the defense, and vise versa.That being said, our defense is being touted as one of our best ever, and I certainly saw signs of that kind of dominance in Saturdayís game.First, Rolando McClain is looking like an absolute beast.He is a tremendous force in the middle, but it appears that he has really improved his pass rushing abilities.Several times he put tremendous pressure on the quarterback, either by finding a crack in the offensive line or by bull rushing the offensive lineman.I expect nothing less than an All-American season out of Rolo this year.Along the same lines, Doníta Hightower also appears to have improved dramatically.Did you see that amazing play he made on the tight end on that deep fly pattern?How many middle linebackers can provide man to man coverage that deep?Donítaís athleticism was further demonstrated on several plays where they lined him up as a defensive end to provide a pass rush, and he appeared to excel in that role.As a matter of fact, I have heard that they are hoping Nico Johnson is able to come in and play immediately at middle linebacker to free up Hightower to take more snaps at defensive end.Itís hard to say how things are going to work out, but it looks like this is going to be a very, very exciting defense to watch.
Our offense had some interesting moments also.Obviously, we were all excited to see McElroyís first quarter TD pass to Julio Jones, but honestly I was a little more concerned about the bust in the secondary that led to that touchdown.McElroyís second TD pass was a little back shoulder fade to Mike McCoy.Jackson appeared to have good coverage on the play, but somehow the ball slipped through for a TD.Hopefully McCoy can be enough of a threat to take some of the focus off of Julio, but my personal opinion is that our biggest threat at WR (besides Julio of course) is Marquis Maze.Maze played on the second string offense in the A-Day game, but I thought he was clearly the most explosive player on that side of the ball.My hope is that he plays in the slot the year, and someone emerges from this yearís recruiting class (Kenny Bell perhaps) to line up on the opposite side of the field from Julio.
The first string offense had a hard time moving the ball also, but I thought McElroy held his own pretty well, and we need to remember that our top three running backs, Ingram, Upchurch, and newcomer Trent Richardson, did not play in the game, so there wasnít much of a running game to keep the defense honest.The most encouraging sign to me on the offensive side of the ball was the play of James Carpenter, a JUCO transfer that appears to have locked down the left tackle position.The rest of the offensive line struggled against our first string defense, but I hope thatís more attributable to the quality of our defensive line than it is an indictment against our offensive line.Weíll see.
The main observation that Iím taking away from this yearís A-Day game is how much our talent level has improved in just a few short years.People have been complaining about how bad our second string offensive line looked, but look at the folks they had to block.Our second string defensive line included Marcel Dareus, Josh Chapman, and Luther Davis.These guys would start for most teams in the SEC (Dareus is a future All-American), so Iím very confident that the poor performance by the second team offense was a function of the quality of our second string defense.
One play really jumped out at me in illustrating just how much our talent level has improved under Saban.If you taped the game, fast forward to 7:45 left in the Fourth Quarter.On that play, Star Jackson (former prep All-American QB), under tremendous pressure, threw about a twenty yard out pattern to the tight end.The pass barely made it over the outstretched hands of Jerrell Harris, but the tight end couldnít make the catch because as soon as he touched it, he was nailed by safety Mark Barron, and youíll also notice that cornerback Alonzo Lawrence was flying into the picture at the end of the play.As I watched that play, I could help but think about how amazing it was that this play featured Star Jackson, Jerrell Harris, Mark Barron, and Alonzo Lawrence, and theyíre all second string (and Star is fighting to hold onto that position)!These guys would have easily started for almost any Alabama team in recent memory.Folks, we have a ton of talent on this team, and as this talent matures, weíre going to see something very special.I have a feeling that these teams are going to remind you of the Bama teams from the sixties and seventies.Bear would be proud!
Thatís it for now.Iíll post more as the season approaches.Iím tempted to post a blog about our early recruiting efforts for the 2010 class (one the nationís top QBs has already committed to us), but Iíll let that wait until signing day gets closer.As always, feel free to send me any questions or comments.