TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In addition to Nick Saban talking extensively about his opinion regarding so many players leaving school early for the NFL Draft, both from Alabama and college football in general, the coach did make some other comments of note following the Crimson Tide’s second closed scrimmage of the spring.
The scrimmage lasted roughly 135 plays under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s. Offensive lineman Jedrick Wills Jr. injured an ankle, but otherwise the coach didn’t mention any injuries.
Here’s five things that stood out.
1] The younger players are looking like younger players
It’s not exactly a surprise, but the coaching staff has to get as many of them ready to play this year as possible.
“I think the big thing that we really try to look for in the second scrimmage is the guys that have played around here and been good players know how to compete. They’ve been in big arenas before. They have mental toughness. They play with discipline. We have high exceptions for how those guys play, and those guys don’t disappoint us. And they didn’t disappoint us today. But the big thing we wanted to see today is we have a lot of young players on our team that have a chance to contribute to the team and play winning football.”
2] DJ Dale is getting reps with the first-team defense
Saban confirmed what BamaCentral noticed, that the early enrollee going through individual drills at nose tackle between Raekwon Davis and LaBryan Ray. He also praised Justin Eboigbe, who was playing with the second unit at end, but said the following about the true freshman Dale:
“DJ is playing some with the ones at nose. He’s got good initial quickness, good power, strikes, seems to be pretty conscientious, shows a little maturity about being able to go out there and do his job.”
3] The defense evened things out a little
When asked how the quarterbacks did on Saturday, Saban focused on the younger players. However, the offense wasn’t as dominating as the previous scrimmage.
“You know, I think the quarterbacks played OK. We turned the ball over a lot more today. But I think we had some what I call bad interceptions off of people’s hands, tipped balls, things like that that certainly they count as interceptions but sometimes they’re not all the quarterback’s fault. We had a couple other not as good as decisions as we’d like. But they made explosive plays on offense.”
4] Alabama is still looking for someone to step up among the reserve interior linebackers
Saban wasn’t mentioning names, but this area was probably the biggest concern heading into the spring. That hasn’t changed. Between Markail Benton, Ale Kaho and Jaylen Moody and early enrollee Shane Lee a strong pecking order needs to be established.
“I saw some guys flying around. I saw some guys miss some tackles. I didn’t feel like we tackled really well, especially the second team. First team did a pretty good job. But people weren’t running their feet on contact, trying to cut tackle, trying to butt people to the ground. And I think they’re finding out if they don’t tackle them correctly they’re not going to get them on the ground. Not when you play against good players. I think there was improvement there, but certainly the whole idea of playing defense is to tackle the guy with the ball.”
5] Saban sent another message to the incoming players
Trey Sanders isn’t the only incoming player arriving over the summer who will a chance for playing time this season. Saban just happened to make his point when talking about running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr.
“They’re making progress. I mean, do they have things to work on? Absolutely. Do they have the ability to make plays? I think so. Do we have some guys coming here that are going to get an opportunity to compete with them? I think so. But I think that’s one of the things -- we’ve got nine players coming on defense and three more guys coming in on offense, and all of those guys are going to get every shot over the summer and fall camp to be able to compete with the guys that are here. So, nobody’s going to be entitled to anything when it comes to next fall. I know that guys, all you care about is the depth chart. We don’t have a depth chart. Everybody’s going to compete, and hopefully, we’ll be able to get those guys to be able to play winning football at running back past the first two guys, as well.”