Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reloading a Champion: Spring Practice 2010

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(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

As expected, the long period of “down” time after the BCS title game can cause some corrosion to form. Not only on the players…but on the writers who cover Alabama football. Speaking from a personal standpoint, this particular blog could not come soon enough!

For the most part, all things considered, it has been a rather calm spring thus far in Tuscaloosa. Notice I said "rather calm"...not calm.

As the team closes in on the annual spring game, to be held April 17
at Bryant-Denny Stadium, let me take this time to “rewind” the game film and fill the gaps from late March…until present day.

When Nick Saban initially met the media to begin spring camp, arguably one of the top stories was the news concerning Tide running back Terry Grant. Even though Grant had fallen in the rotation and was limited last season due to injury, Terry was still a well known name on the team, and at times a vital contributor during Saban’s first season with the Tide. Terry Grant has decided not to compete during the 2010 season, and his time with the Alabama football team is over. Grant has already earned his degree, and simply opted not to use his final year of eligibility.

Another story that continues to make “subtle waves” is the news concerning defensive back Robby Green. While the core news/story concerning Green has yet to be revealed, his eligibility for the 2010 season is in jeopardy. Green has been allowed to practice this spring, but the story regarding Green is still very much up in the air. If I could (as of now) name one story that will still be a “hot topic” come fall practice, it will be the story and or “situation” concerning Robby Green.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower is BACK! Dont’a has been at full speed during the course of spring practice and has shown no ill effects from his knee injury/surgery sustained last fall. Hightower will likely be the leader of the linebackers in 2010, and will fill the hole left by Rolando McClain. With the return of Hightower it almost feels as though ‘Bama just received a new recruit! Dont’a looks strong and ready to hit someone!

Tide starting center William Vlachos will likely miss the entire spring (full contact) due to foot surgery. However, William is expected to be 100% when fall camp begins in August. The surgery should not impact his performance during the 2010 season.

Tide quarterback Star Jackson has missed time this spring due to academic issues. Jackson is currently active in practice but did miss a total of three days during the latter portion of March.

The rib injury suffered by Tide quarterback Greg McElroy against the Florida Gators is a distant memory. Greg said the injury was only made worse due to the fact he suffers from asthma. Greg looks to be firing on all cylinders, and like Dont’a Hightower, is showing no ill effects from the injury that limited his productivity against Texas.

New signee Dequan Menzie (defensive back) will miss the 2010 season after undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. Menzie will receive a medical redshirt. The junior college transfer is expected to be out 4-6 months.

If anyone had to put a “tag” on one question mark surrounding the 2010 season, it would be placed over the ‘Bama secondary. The injury to Menzie comes at a critical time for many reasons.

Due to the “possible” absence of Robby Green for the 2010 season, the question marks only seem to get bigger, and the injury to Menzie will only put a brighter light on the performance and the brand new secondary.

Every spring has a few names and faces who shine a little brighter. So far quarterback AJ McCarron and Tide receiver Julio Jones appear to be the “poster boys” of greatness.

McCarron was stellar during the initial scrimmage of the spring and many think Julio Jones (now 100% healthy) is even better than before. It goes without saying McCarron and Jones will be monitored closely in the next scrimmage and public spring game.

What to Watch?

-The Bama secondary! In the coming days I will give a full report regarding “secondary concerns” and what Tide fans can look for this fall. All I can say is…get ready for new names and new faces. Get to know the names: Dre Kirkpatrick, DeMarcus Milliner, BJ Scott, and Phelon Jones.

-The kicking game. Will new faces equal new success?

-The linebacker shuffle. How ‘Bama will make the most of the linebacking core.

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