Scrimmage Thoughts

Much like Varys from Game of Thrones, the Lighthouse has its own little network of “little birds” who collect bits and pieces of information for your amusement.  Of late, the birds have been singing a melancholy assortment of tunes that seem to date back to 2008 or 2009.  However, it remains to be seen whether the greatest hits of 2008 are timeless musical masterpieces or if they’ll be spit out like yesterday’s bubble gum songs.  What does all this mean and where am I going with all this?  Well, I’ll tell ya….

Quarterbacks

I mean, this is what you all want to know about, right?  I started to make you scroll thru the entire post or give you tiny breadcrumbs or hidden Easter eggs  in multiple posts to generate a higher amount of clicks.  But, that’s not what we do here and that’s not how we roll (tide!).  So…quarterbacks….let’s just get to it…

  • Alec Morris – Saban has openly stated he is looking for the QB who will not make mistakes and who will not turn the ball over to the other team. With that being the case, then the answer appears to be Alec Morris.  At Saturday’s scrimmage, Morris trotted out there with the #1s and ran the first three or four possessions with them.  Morris is actually the longest tenured QB on the roster so he knows the playbook the best.  At 6’3, 230, he’s a pretty good-sized dude but he’s not going to blow up the radar gun with any howitzer type throws.  Cornwell, Barnett and Coker all have better arms but where Morris excels is in knowing the playbook, getting the offense aligned correctly and the ability to change out of a bad play and into a better play.  Morris may see continued competition on into the season but, for the moment, it appears he’ll be the 2008 game manager for this year’s team.  Now if Coach Saban can just remember his first name (Saban accidentally called him Alex last week)…
  • Jake Coker – Jake continues to be plagued by a slow to poor decision-making process. When he hits that fifth step and fires the ball to his #1 pass option, he looks like a sure-fire first round NFL stud.  However, this only happens about 30 percent of the time.  The rest of the time, Coker confounds you with slow reads, hesitant throws and downright dumb decisions.  He’s still the guy who, with :09 seconds on the clock, will run around aimlessly until no time remains for even a field goal.  Saturday he had a delay of game penalty and would have suffered a grounding penalty on another play.    His good is beyond good but if Saban wants the QB who makes the fewest mistakes, it ain’t Coker.
  • Cooper Bateman –   Interestingly, Bateman led the twos so the first 7 or 8 possessions featured Morris with the 1s and Bateman with the 2s.  I’d long since given up on Bateman but there he was taking infinitely more snaps than Cornwell and Barnett.  I have never considered him as a contender for the job but he did flash good mobility and a good arm at times on Saturday.  Bateman led a sparkling 2 minute drill against the ones that led to a perfectly thrown ball for a touchdown.  Later, in the red zone drills, he rolled right and threw a perfect strike for another TD.  He probably did just as well as any of the QBs on Saturday.  No, seriously – I don’t make this stuff up!
  • Blake Barnett – Barnett will be the starting QB for Alabama in 2016.  Book that.  Mark it down.  Engrave it.    Barnett has the best skills and surprising mobility at the QB position.  His ability to read the defense and deliver an accurate ball are head and shoulders above the rest as evidenced by his ability to win the Elite 11 QB competition last year (beating out a who’s who of QBs, including Ricky Town).   The game is still moving a bit fast for Barnett and he desperately needs to fill out his frame so a redshirt year would be the best thing for him at this time.  Cecil Hurt commented that Barnett threw three interceptions in the first scrimmage so the staff isn’t exactly excited to see a repeat performance against Wisconsin. I suspect that, unless he makes a ridiculous push, Barnett will redshirt this season.
  • David Cornwell – What to say about Mr Cornwell?  He saw very limited reps on Saturday and, when he did get behind center, it was behind the third string center and with the third team offense.  Saban has purposefully left Cornwell out of the QB discussion and couldn’t have made a stronger point than to have him get the least amount of work with the least likely group to see game action.  A buddy of mine mentioned that Cornwell had at some point may have mouthed off about getting “his chance” or “more reps” and that apparently didn’t go well.  AJ McCarron once said that, when AJ complained to Saban that he couldn’t show leadership by being forced to lead the third team offense, Coach Saban responded that he was simply testing McElroy – and that he had officially failed miserably.  Evidently, Cornwell may be failing a similar test and has put himself in a hole that he seemingly will not climb out of this year.  With Barnett on deck for 2016, Cornwell’s future appears murky at best.

As for other QB things seen on Saturday by our Flock of Seagulls…

  • Morris threw the best ball of the day when he dropped in a gorgeous bomb to Robert Foster for a 95 yard TD. Interesting to note that Eddie Jackson actually ran him down at the three but momentum carried Foster into the end zone.
  • Coker thru a pick to Shaun Dion Hamilton in 7 on 7 pass skeleton drills (Hamilton showed well throughout the day) – that’s not good.
  • Bateman threw a beautiful hole shot to Daylan Charlot deep down the field behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. He also threw a strike to Deionte Thompason for a TD in the two-minute drill.  Later, Bateman rolled right and hit Derrick Kief in the back of the end zone for a red zone TD.  Also, Bateman threw a strike to the very underutilized Chris Black later in the scrimmage.  These four throws were outstanding.
  • Blake Barnett was the third QB in the ring – getting reps ahead of Coker and Cornwell. It went Morris, then Bateman, then Barnett and then Coker.
  • Barnett quickly zipped a pass thru Derrick Kief’s hands for a pick six to Marlon Humphrey. Not Barnett’s fault, though.
  • Cornwell seemed to throw a very flat deep ball with very little air or trajectory.

Non QB Notes

  1. Kick returners will probably be Drake and Stewart.
  2. Captain Obvious says it would be interesting to put Henry and Drake in the same backfield.
  3. I hear the D practiced subbing quickly. Ohio State had that down to a science against Oregon as they were able to shuttle 3 on and 3 off easily, even without Oregon subbing themselves.  Perhaps the staff is working on a solution to subbing.
  4. Adam Griffith hit a bomb to open the scrimmage (led by Alec Morris) but then flubbed two other FG tries. Reports are he’s healthy and all of his kicks were relatively well struck.  Once he was betrayed by a high snap that threw off the timing.
  5. Dakota Ball had a nice practice, showing solid hands and a pretty decent ability to block. Finding a true inline TE will be paramount to the success of this team if it’s hell bent on running the football (which I believe it will be).
  6. Incidentally, Bo Scarborough seemed to be moving extremely well. Look for him to play a role as the H-Back around the midpoint of the season and he’ll be a valuable weapon out of the backfield a la Jalston Fowler.
  7. There were at least 10 drops on the day. Howard, Ridley, Foster, Kief, Mullaney and all had drops.
  8. The defense was terrific in short yardage and goal line opportunities. Not a real shocker.
  9. Cyrus Jones will be the #1 punt returner and still shows skills that could be utilized on offense in a pinch.
  10. Kenyan Drake has not lost a step – he looked extremely fast and turned the corner easily a couple of times.
  11. Richard Mullaney received virtually all of the first string reps at the slot receiver spot. He will be a name and number (#16) you need to know.
  12. Damien Harris is a beast but he did miss a blitz pick up. Still, his size, speed and vision have him (in my estimation) as the best true RB on the roster right now.  He’s definitely further along at this age than any of Saban’s other RBs.
  13. While Barnett was in there, he turned left to hand the ball off to Ronnie Clark. Sadly, Clark was on his right.  May have been on Clark but the strength of the formation was to the right…
  14. Surprisingly, JK Scott had an off day. He boomed two but hit three that didn’t turn over.  He also dropped a snap.
  15. After a delay of game with Coker in the game, Saban and Kiffin had a spirited conversation that seemed to involve more than where the post scrimmage cocktails would be consumed.
  16. The offense has implemented flash cards to get plays in for the hurry up offense.

Post Practice Comments

The squad has had one single, solitary day off in the last three weeks.  Coach Battle said the Marines wouldn’t have drilled this past Saturday but Alabama’s kids went out and scrimmaged.  I think he was dead serious.  Many of the issues that were seen at the scrimmage could easily be attributed to it being a brutally tough camp.

Saban said he would choose the QB who would make the fewest mistakes and that would lead you to the doorstep of Alec Morris.  I truly believe you will see a game plan reminiscent of 2008 – run, play action pass and play the hell out of your defense.  I don’t know if you can win that way in 2015 and Saban evidently said exactly that after the scrimmage.

Saban stated that the Bama D was third in the country in scoring last season and seemed miffed that folks would even question the Tide’s defensive abilities.  Of course, earlier in camp Kirby Smart lamented over a multitude of issues that plagued last year’s D so I do think/hope there is concern on the staff.  By all measure, the 2015 Bama defense will be the most talented group in the country and it’s expected that the Tide will dominate opponent’s offenses.  However, Oklahoma, Auburn, Ohio State and Texas A&M would like to remind you that they faced some formidable Alabama defenses and had few, if any problems.  Frankly, talent has never been an issue so relying on your defense to win every game probably won’t pan out every time against the prolific offenses of A&M, Tennessee, Auburn and others.

Saban mentioned in 2012, the Tide D led the nation by giving up only 8.2 points per game.  Last year’s best scoring defense, Ole Miss, allowed around 16 points per game.  In just three years the points allowed have doubled and, according to Saban, it all coincides with the rule change that allows offensive linemen to go three (and sometimes further) yards down the field to block.  Defenses are put into conflict because they can’t tell if it’s a run or a pass because the offensive line does the same thing for each play.  Oftentimes the offensive line doesn’t even know if it’s a run or a pass so how can the defense know?  That’s why in today’s game you’d better not plan for your defense to suffocate every offense you come up against – Toto, we aren’t in 2009 anymore.  This season should be interesting…

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