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Alabama football: What we learned from Week 1 of spring practice

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — We’re now three practices into spring drills for Alabama football, and there have been a lot of key takeaways to note.

The Crimson Tide are set to practice 12 more times before concluding spring with their A-Day spring game on April 21.

Here’s a look at what we learned from Week 1.

Tua Tagovailoa’s hand has been biggest story

It’s been an interesting spring on the injury front already for Alabama football. The biggest injury came on Day 1 when Alabama coach Nick Saban announced that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa injured his left hand on Tuesday.

Tagovailoa returned to the field on Thursday in a limited capacity. He did a similar amount of work on Saturday during the media viewing period.

Tagovailoa is sporting a wrap and a glove to protect his left hand. The fact that he’s on the field at all is a positive sign. After practice on Saturday, Alabama doesn’t return to the field until Tuesday. That gives Tagovailoa two days to rest, and see how his hand responds to the work he’s doing.

Low numbers, injuries lead to experiments

Because of injuries and low numbers at certain positions, Alabama is getting creative to make it through spring practice.

Alabama basically lost its entire secondary from last season, so numbers are low. The Crimson Tide signed five defensive backs in their 2018 class, but only one is on campus as a midyear enrollee — junior college transfer Saivion Smith.

With the numbers being low, Alabama is using National Championship Game hero DeVonta Smith on both sides of the ball. Smith worked with the defensive backs during the media viewing periods of practice this week.

Prior to Alabama taking the field for spring practice, right tackle Matt Womack sustained a foot injury.

Womack started in all 14 games last season. Alabama also must replace two-year starter Bradley Bozeman at center.

Ross Pierschbacher got a look at center on Tuesday. Jedrick Wills lined up at right tackle on Tuesday. Alex Leatherwood is another player to watch.

At this point, Alabama is experimenting all over the offensive line.

New coaches are fitting in nicely

It’s crazy to think that no coach from Alabama’s 2015 national championship team is in the same role now. That was only three seasons ago, and the Crimson Tide have a completely different staff.

Furthermore, offensive line coach Brent Key is the lone member of the staff filling the same role as a season ago. Tosh Lupoi and Mike Locksley are still around, but both have been bumped up to coordinator spots (Lupoi still works with outside linebackers).

Alabama has six new assistant coaches this season, one thanks to the NCAA allowing teams to have a 10th assistant coach, and all three coordinator spots are being manned by someone different from a year ago.

However, if you’re expecting a drop-off, don’t hold your breath. Nick Saban is confident in this new bunch.

“I think they’re all working hard, and they’ve got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of new ideas,” Saban said. “I’m excited about them and I like every one of them, and to be honest with you we’re very, very fortunate and hit a home run with the guys we were able to hire.”

Damien Harris ready to lead

Alabama fans should feel comfortable knowing the team has veteran leaders such as Damien Harris around. Harris returned to Tuscaloosa for his senior season when he could have bolted for the NFL.

He’ll be one of the featured players on offense, as well as one of the faces of the program this season.

Harris has a chance to become the first Alabama player to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. He’s rushed for 2,197 yards and 14 touchdowns during his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. Harris is 1,394 yards off Derrick Henry’s career rushing record.

“One thing I need to improve on as far as being a leader for this team is how I affect other people,” Harris said. “I’ve been a lead-by-example kind of guy, not super vocal. There comes a point in time where you have to do what’s best for the team, and do what you can do to impact the guys on this team in a positive way. Whether that’s me becoming more vocal or continuing to lead by example, I’m ready to do it to enhance my leadership role on this team.”

Alabama’s players are really strong

One of the best things about Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran being on Twitter has been the random videos he posts from the weight room.

First up, we got a glimpse of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts squatting nearly 600 pounds (looks like 585) on Thursday. That’s an impressive number for anyone, let alone a quarterback. That’s nearly three times his own weight. Hurts was a powerlifter in high school.

On Friday, Cochran dropped a short clip of Alabama safety Xavier McKinney tossing around 305 pounds as if it were nothing. McKinney is competing to be one of Alabama’s starting safeties.

Hopefully Cochran continues to release these behind the scenes nuggets throughout the year and into the season.

The post Alabama football: What we learned from Week 1 of spring practice appeared first on SEC Country.

Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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The 3-Pointer: What we learned from Alabama basketball win over Louisiana Tech

Alabama basketball-Avery Johnson-Collin Sexton-Dazon Ingram-Donta Hall-Riley Norris

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 24 Alabama basketball stormed back for a 77-74 win over Louisiana Tech on Wednesday night to improve to 6-1 on the season.

Louisiana Tech led by as many as 11 points at one point, and held the lead for 36:10 of the 40 minutes. But the Crimson Tide used strong second halves from Dazon Ingram, Collin Sexton and Donta Hall to secure the victory.

“Terrific second half for our team,” Johnson said. “I’m really proud of them. Those guys that were in there in the second half, they played both ends of the floor. They were hustling and played with a lot of passion.”

Offensive trio

Alabama got big offensive outputs from guards Dazon Ingram and Collin Sexton and forward Donta Hall.

It was Ingram who kept Alabama in the game, becoming more aggressive as Louisiana Tech tried to build a bigger lead. Ingram finished with 22 points and 9 rebounds while making 13 of 17 free throws.

Hall threw down momentum-swinging dunks and was a force on the defensive end, finishing with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Despite early shooting struggles, Sexton provided the closing punch. The star freshman poured in 22 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and had 3 steals.

“They’re just so good off the dribble,” Louisiana Tech coach Eric Konkol said of Ingram and Sexton. “They’re so difficult to keep in front.”

Free throw shooting

Alabama’s free throw shooting was the difference in the game. The Crimson Tide struggled making foul shots in the opening half, but made them down the stretch.

Alabama closed the game by making 13 straight free throws. That should give the team confidence going forward.

Quality minutes

Johnson was sure to mention the minutes Alabama got from forwards Riley Norris and Alex Reese, and rightfully so. Neither posted big numbers, but they stepped in when Alabama needed a spark.

Reese broke a scoring drought for the Crimson Tide, scoring the first points of the second half. Norris provided veteran leadership, drew offensive fouls and grabbed 4 rebounds.

Norris played 24 minutes while Reese played 14. Johnson said the team thought about starting Norris in the game.

“Reese and Riley, their numbers are not going to blow you away on the stat sheet,” Johnson said. “But defensively — the way they helped us especially when we went to a little bit of a matchup zone to try to slow them down — those guys were critically important.”

The post The 3-Pointer: What we learned from Alabama basketball win over Louisiana Tech appeared first on SEC Country.

Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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The 3-pointer: What we learned during Alabama basketball’s win against Alabama A&M

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama men’s basketball program hoped the recruiting class of 2017 would end up setting records.

It took three games for the first one to fall.

Scoring all of his 30 point points beyond the arc, freshman guard John Petty notched 10 3-pointers to set the Crimson Tide single-game record during Friday night’s 104-67 victory over Alabama A&M. The previous mark of eight was shared by seven players, including senior guard/forward Riley Norris.

Every shot that Petty took was from 3-point range, where he was 10-for-13.

“That was a first, but hopefully not the last,” Petty said. “I kind of had some flashbacks from Canada, where I shot the ball all over the place.”

Petty went 5-for-6 in the first half and heard some people talking about the record, but didn’t quite think he’d get it Friday.

“That basket was as big as the ocean for that young man tonight,” Alabama A&M coach Donnie Marsh said. “That was a quality, quality squad.”

The game was one of two at Coleman Coliseum for the Barclays Center Classic, which will take the Crimson Tide team to Brooklyn next week. Alabama improved to 3-0, and Alabama A&M fell 0-3.

The Kids Are All Right

Freshman guard Collin Sexton nearly matched the Bulldogs’ first-half output by himself, scoring 18, including a half-court buzzer-beater, while the Bulldogs had 22 at the break. He finished with 22 points and five assists.

All five of Alabama’s freshmen played together for a while during the first half. They combined to score 78 points.

Overall, Alabama made 40 of 63 shots from the field (63.5 percent). Earlier this was week it was 34-for-57 against Lipscomb (59.6 percent).

“I don’t think we put up a lot of resistance,” Marsh said.

With Petty obviously leading the way, Alabama made 16 3-pointers. Among those to notch one were walk-ons Landon Fuller and Lawson Schaffer, who, like Petty, drew load roars from the crowd.

“I never make the first one,” Petty said. “When I saw the second one fall, I knew it might be good night.”

Alabama’s discipline a work in progress

Sophomore forward/center Daniel Giddens picked up two quick fouls and eventually fouled out with 2 points and 1 rebound in 15 minutes. Coach Avery Johnson kept Sexton in the game after he picked up his second foul with 4:45 remaining before halftime. He responded by assisting on a Petty 3 and didn’t get another foul in the game.

Overall, the Crimson Tide had 20 fouls, but Alabama A&M was just 9 of 24 from the line.

After struggling at the line in the home opener against Lipscomb, making just 12 of 32 free throws (37.5 percent), Alabama did a little better against the Bulldogs. After missing 3 of the first 4 attempts, the Crimson Tide went 8 of 15 (53.3 percent).

Alabama is faster and can dominate

The only statistical category that Alabama didn’t lead was points off turnovers, where the Bulldogs had a 13-12 edge. It was 48-28 in the paint, 14-2 in fastbreak points and 29-19 in bench points.

The one statistic that jumped out to Johnson was the Crimson Tide’s 25 assists.

“A pretty good night for us overall, offensively,” Johnson, who thought the defense dipped in the second half. “We have to improve at guarding the dribble.”

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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Alabama football: What we learned from first fall camp scrimmage

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Defense won the day during Alabama football’s first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium, based on what we heard from people in attendance.

That’s to be expected given Alabama is breaking in a new offensive coordinator in Brian Daboll. Also, Alabama’s defense is going to be loaded at each level once again. However, there were some things the offense can build on.

“I don’t think we had the rhythm that we’d like to see on offense,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I’m sure he (Daboll) would say the same thing to you. I don’t think that’s a reflection on him. It’s just the way it went today. We’ve had good days and we’ve had bad days.

“Today we made some plays and we made some really good plays. But the consistency wasn’t what it needed to be in terms of finishing drives and playing with the consistency of… There were a lot of good things to build on.”

The scrimmage lasted roughly 135 plays and lasted just over two hours under sunny skies, with temperatures hanging in the low 90s for most of the afternoon.

Here are a three things we learned from the workout based on a few of Saban’s comments.

RELATED: Five indications Alabama had a good scrimmage

1. Nick Saban likes this team

It’s still kind of early in camp, but a lot of things are slowly falling into place for Alabama football and Saban has noticed.

“I think we can have a really, really good team,” Saban said. “I’m not disappointed in what our team is right now. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. Are we where we’d like to be? I think we just have to focus on what we need to do to improve.”

Reading a little between the lines, that’s Saban’s version of high praise. Offer a little praise while also publicly letting the players know there is still plenty of room to grow.

Alabama loses so much talent to the NFL each year. The thing is, Alabama is one of the few programs — and maybe the only one — that consistently has multiple four and five stars waiting for their opportunity. While Alabama may be young or inexperienced in certain positions, the Crimson Tide certainly doesn’t lack for talent. It’s just a matter of maximizing these next couple of weeks prior to the season opener to ensure the players are ready to take on Florida State.

2. Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood will get a shot this week

A pair of 5-star prospects in Alabama’s 2017 class, Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood are going to get their shot to impress the coaching staff this coming week.

During warmups, we spotted Wills and Leatherwood splitting time at right tackle with the second-team offense. Both also could play guard if necessary. Saban said both guys have done well in practice, and “have the potential to help us.”

The focus of this coming week of practice as well as Alabama’s second scrimmage will be on seeing which players deserve a spot in the two-deep. This is a prime opportunity for Wills and/or Leatherwood to make their case for potential playing time as true freshmen.

“I think both those guys are certainly guys we want to invest a lot of time in this week and get to the point where we see if they can help us this year,” Saban said.

Alabama football, Nick Saban, Jedrick Wills, Alex Leatherwood, Crimson Tide football, fall camp, first scrimmage
Could JK Scott punt and handle the kickoffs and field goals this season? (Alabama Athletics)

3. Not-so-special teams

If there is one question mark Alabama has, it’s place kicking. It’s hard to remember a time when Alabama fans didn’t have to sit on their hands every time the kicker trotted out, but we could be looking at another year of that this season.

Alabama fans need not worry about punter JK Scott. Scott may have to help out with kickoffs and/or field goals if necessary.

Saban also mentioned that the punt return unit is shaping up.

Field-goal kicking remains an issue. Saban said Thursday that there is competition at kicker and long snapper.

Alabama signed long snapper Thomas Fletcher and kicker Joseph Bulovas in its 2017 class, but neither has locked up the job to this point.

Fletcher is the lone long snapper listed on Alabama’s roster, so he is likely competing against walk-ons.

Bulovas is competing with senior Andy Pappanastos.

“I think we have things to work on relative to some of the other areas in the kicking game,” Saban said. “Missed a couple field goals. We had a couple blocked because we didn’t really have good protection. So we really need to work hard on that part of it.

“Kickoff and kickoff returns seem to be doing really, really well. I think we have to develop confidence in that area. It’s not just the kicker; it’s the protection, the holder, the whole operation being on time. We need to do a lot of work in that area.”

No news is good news 

There was no real news for Alabama football from an injury standpoint. Saban mentioned running backs Najee Harris (slightly pulled hamstring) and Josh Jacobs (pulled hamstring) as the two players who were held out.

Harris should be ready to go on Monday. Jacobs injury could take a few more days to heal up.

Outside of the normal bumps and bruises, everyone else should be able to practice on Monday after taking Sunday off. That’s the best news of the day if you’re an Alabama fan.

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country