April 22, 2017
Crimson scored a 27-24 victory over White thanks to a game-winning field goal by JK Scott as time expired in Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Tide head coach Nick Saban told ESPN’s Chris Low coming into the scrimmage the team had “a long way to go” in trying to replace several impact contributors, especially on the defensive side. He hoped some of the newer additions could use the spring game to make their case for playing time.
“Two years in a row, we’ve lost a lot of guys,” Saban said. “We just had a lot of depth on defense and it didn’t show up, and we were still really good last year. We’ve got a lot of young guys that can make a contribution to the team, which we need from a depth standpoint.”
Freshman wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and sophomore defensive lineman Raekwon Davis were among the players who did their best to take advantage of that opportunity.
Here’s a look at some of the top performers from Saturday’s spring showcase:
Tua Tagovailoa Shines; Jalen Hurts Improves After Slow Start
Tagovailoa couldn’t have made a much better first impression. The true freshman quarterback showed he’s making rapid progress picking up the Alabama offense and flashed nice touch, especially on the game’s first touchdown to T.J. Simmons, a perfectly lofted fade.
Hurts played well enough during his freshman campaign to buy himself some margin for error heading into the 2017 season. That said, the early signs from the Hawaii native suggest the Tide have a high-upside backup waiting in the wings just in case.
Sometimes it helps to get a little lucky, too. The SEC Network highlighted Tagovailoa’s second TD pass, which somehow pinballed to Jeudy for a 25-yard score:
Meanwhile, Hurts looked a little sluggish in the game’s opening stages. He tossed an interception to Trevon Diggs in the end zone, which the White squad quickly converted to a touchdown. Those are the types of game-changing mistakes he must avoid once the real games get started.
The projected starter eventually settled in and looked better to finish his day. A 65-yard touchdown pass to Robert Foster was his best moment. Those types of big plays down the field were virtually nonexistent from the Bama passing game for most of last season.
Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News discussed the QB’s improved deep throws:
All told, it was a promising day for the quarterbacks who will likely land at No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart when the season gets underway. More consistency with the aerial attack will be an important emphasis as Alabama attempts to hunt down another national title.
Retooling Defense Still a Work in Progress Heading into Fall
It’s impossible to draw any definite conclusions about the Alabama defense after the scrimmage for two main reasons.
First, the group is in the process of replacing several players who are now top prospects for the 2017 NFL draft, led by defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, linebackers Reuben Foster and Tim Williams and cornerback Marlon Humphrey. It’s going to take more than a few months.
Second, Saban likes using these early practices and the spring game to put players in situations where they aren’t fully comfortable. Whether it’s putting a corner on a man-to-man island against a wide receiver or adding extra layers of responsibility for his linebackers, it’s a testing ground.
Saturday presented both reasons for optimism and signs of the work left to do.
Most of the positive vibes will be related to the pass rush. The two defenses combined to register 12 sacks, which takes at least a minor step to answering questions about whether Bama will be able to generate enough heat on opposing quarterbacks this season.
On the flip side, there were some issues in coverage.
Diggs, who’s trying to earn a spot in the starting lineup while making the full-time switch to corner, got beat over the top a few times. He did come down with an interception against Hurts, but he needs to do a much better job of locating and knocking down deep balls.
Ryan C. Fowler of WDGM summed up the corner’s day:
It wasn’t a totally lost afternoon for the pass defense, though. Linebacker Terrell Hall took advantage of a rare Tagovailoa mistake to score a defensive touchdown, a factor that Bama used to get out of several jams throughout last season.
Ken Rogers of the Dothan Eagle commented on the pick-six:
The SEC Network highlighted the defensive score:
Ultimately, the Alabama defense isn’t where it needs to be quite yet. The amount of talent on the roster combined with the battle-tested scheme and the Saban-led coaching staff should ensure the unit is ready to roll by the time the Tide face off with Florida State in the Sept. 2 opener.
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