It’s hard, or even darn near impossible, to read the positional tea leaves that have been coming out of Tuscaloosa leading up to Saturday’s scrimmage. With two-a-days now officially completed, Alabama will have one more scrimmage to allow those players who are vying for a move up the depth charts one last chance to impress the staff. After this scrimmage, the staff will identify their positional depth charts and begin ramping up the reps for the two-deep roster.
In truth, the past practices have allowed much of the decision-making process and player evaluations to already take place but there are still a few position battles where Saturday will either reinforce what the staff believes or send them in different directions to shore up perceived weaknesses.
With that being said, here are just a few observations regarding several of the items coming out of fall camp and heading into Saturday:
Right Tackle: Saban said yesterday that coming out of high school Arie K was a fine-looking right tackle – you recall that Saban is a pretty good judge of talent, right? Well unfortunately for Arie, injuries beset the big man and the resulting issues made Arie into a fine-looking guard. Now, fall camp has shown that Arie is evidently quite a bit more healthy than he has been in the past and he’s once again showing the ability/athleticism to play on the edge at right tackle. Saturday will either reinforce this or it will be a complete disaster. If he holds up to his old standard then the line will be much better for it and we may be able to relax a little bit regarding the OL questions…
Left Guard: Austin Shepherd switched places with Arie K and is now manning the left guard slot next to Cyrus K. Shepherd is a mauler and excels in run blocking but isn’t quite the athlete that is needed at the right tackle spot. All in all, this move makes total sense but Saturday will be telling. I will say there are clearly more guys who can fill in at the guard slot then there are at the tackle spots. Tackles require a certain size, a certain wing span and the quickness to deal with edge pass rushers. There’s a reason tackles in the NFL make a boat load of money as there simply aren’t enough of them around. This holds true for Alabama, as well. The Tide has an abundance of guards but not so many tackles on the roster.
The Hills Are Alive: Grant Hill continues to impress the staff and is in line to play quite a bit as a true freshman. He’s over 300 pounds and sports a miniscule 6% body fat composition so home skillet apparently likes to work out. A good friend of mine evaluated his high school game film and told me Grant Hill was the best high school offensive lineman he’d studied (and he’d seen Andre Smith). Andrew Bone also confirmed that Grant Hill was a special, special athlete when he spoke to us at an Alabama Alumni gathering. Grant Hill is the real deal and is pushing to get snaps this season and that’s remarkable since he wasn’t even an early enrollee! Brandon Hill has also been impressing and I’m excited to see and hear how he does Saturday. Both Hills are literally making a big push for playing time this season – either as backups or possibly as starters if any injuries occur.
How Much is a Tenpenny Worth: Yesterday Nick Saban called out Altee Tenpenny as a bright spot in camp so you know Nick must be pretty impressed with the true freshman RB. In watching Tenpenny play in a High School All Star game, he looked powerful and loved to make the classic one hard cut and get up field. He didn’t jump, jive or wail – he just hit the hole with the reckless abandon that you know Coach Burton Burns loves. It appears Tenpenny has forged ahead of Tyren Jones and Alvin Kamara (who left today to have his knee scoped) in the race for 2013 playing time but Saturday’s scrimmage will likely tell the tale. After Saturday, the reps will be considerable reduced for a couple of these kids towards the latter part of the RB depth chart.
Slight Ends: Malcome Faciane is back at TE after serving a suspension. LaMichael Fanning is still lining up with the TEs after moving over from the defensive side of the ball. Yet, with these two bigger bodies to use at the tight end position, the staff still felt it necessary to move Brandon Greene over there, as well. The word on Greene coming out of camp the last couple of years seemed to be that he was a promising tackle, showing the athleticism it takes to survive on the edge. It’s a complete surprise that Greene was moved over to the tight end spot and it sure seems to reek of desperation to find one more TE. Now Faciane has never been impressive and certainly doesn’t play to his 250+ pound build. But, that being said, does it mean the Fanning experiment has been a bust? Do they just need a third big TE for goal line packages? Saturday will be interesting to see how much playing time Fanning and Greene get at this position.
DePriest Suspension: It really doesn’t sound like DePriest did anything horrific so I wouldn’t worry about him too much. But, Ragland and Dillon Lee are more than capable of handling Trey’s duties if/when he misses any time. In particular, Lee has been extremely impressive in pass coverage, showing CJ Mosley type instincts.
Oh Henry: I saved the best for last but I’m Jonesing to hear how good Derrick Henry looks at running back on Saturday. Henry is like a nimble Brandon Jacobs – he doesn’t need a hole, he makes them. Linebackers filling the holes will be filling their pants with fear when the Henry locomotive comes thru. It sounds as though he’s fully healthy and ready to go and, if so, wrap you heads around this. Henry is probably sitting around 240 to 245 lbs right now. Va Tech’s best defender is DE James Gayle – he weighs 250 lbs. Their other DE is 252 lbs. Their LBs weigh 230, 215 and 232 pounds. Our prediction for 8/31 is a ton of Hokie carnage, courtesy of big Mr Derrick Henry…
I should be able to post some interesting takes this coming Sunday since Saturday’s scrimmage will be viewed by the Red Elephant clubs. With hundreds of excited visitors you’ll get an assortment of new insiders posting their takes on the status of the team. I am sure I’ll have a few insights to share…