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April 7, 2010

Notebook: Tide's young guns having a good spring

TUSCALOOSA _ If there was one set of statistics that jumped out from last week's scrimmage, it belonged to University of Alabama backup quarterback A.J. McCarron.

He completed 21 of 28 passes for 229 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

"I thought he did a great job out there," starter Greg McElroy said. "He's quick and decisive and he got the ball out of his hands pretty well.

"It was very encouraging to see and obviously he's kind of my little pupil last year and I've tried to teach him as much as I possibly know, the same way John Parker (Wilson) did with me. I know I benefitted a lot from his coaching. A.J. continues to make improvements every day and I'm very, very proud of him. He takes a lot of pride in his work and works extremely hard."

McElroy's numbers weren't too bad either, completing 14 of 22 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown, and also had no pickoffs.

"I really am impressed with the quarterbacks," Coach Nick Saban said in his first press conference since Friday's scrimmage "Greg's had a really good spring, so has A.J. I'm really pleased with Phillip Sims, as a young guy he's coming along. He has talent."

Although the scrimmage was geared a little more to the passing game, which Alabama hopes to improve this season, quarterback appears to be one position the Crimson Tide may not have to worry about for some time. Even McElroy is telling people that after he's moved on the offense should remain in good hands for years.

"Phillip's coming along really well as well," he continued. "He's starting to play a little faster. He's starting to pick it up and has all the physical talent in the world. The mental aspect, the speed of the game is just very different between high school and college. He's doing a great job, works his butt off both in the film room and the classroom and the field, he's obviously a joy to have.

"And Star (Jackson) is doing well also. He came back after a couple of practices he missed, he's been working hard and has obviously come back a different player, a different mindset. He's really bought back into the program."

McCarron finished last season second on the depth chart behind McElroy, but didn't play in order to redshirt. If anything, his grip on that role has strengthened, especially after Jackson missed three practices due to academic reasons.

"The thing that's really impressed me about A.J. is his timing and his release," senior tight end Preston Dial said. "It's so much quick this year than last year.

"I was telling my dad the other day it's exciting to watch these young kids start to click. I wish I could have seen that with me, but I had to suffer through that."

Back to normal
Saban shed some light on where the linebackers are lining up.

For now, the base unit is Jerrell Harris at strongside, Dont'a Hightower at middle and Chris Jordan at weakside.

Courtney Upshaw has only been working at Jack and said he's being pushed by Alex Watkins and Ed Stinson.

"I'm trying to compete for playing time," Upshaw said. "Last year was last year."
In obvious passing situations, they switch things up with everyone going back to their previous positions with Jordan apparently in the middle.

"I think those guys are a lot more confident doing that," Saban said.

He added that end Damion Square is working with the first unit in the nickel formation, with Marcell Dareus inside and Hightower also on the line as a pass-rusher.

Back to normal, part II
After moving numerous offensive linemen around and trying them in new spots Monday, everyone was back in their usual spots Wednesday.

First unit (from left to right): James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, David Ross, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker.

Second unit: Tyler Love, Anthony Steen, Brian Motley, John Michael Boswell and Alfred McCullough.

Third unit: Taylor Pharr, Allen Skelton, Chad Lindsay, Kellen Williams and Austin Shepherd.

Injury report
Linebacker Tana Patrick's injury from last Friday's scrimmage was a concussion. He has not been cleared yet to practice, but could return Friday. Patrick rode an exercise bike Wednesday alongside linebacker Nico Johnson (sprained knee).

Outside linebacker Milton Talbert is still practicing in black, signaling no contact.

Tide-bits
Safety Robby Green's eligibility is apparently close to a resolution. "We'll make an announcement about that shortly," Saban said.

Defensive end Darrington Sentimore was back in his usual spot after missing Monday's practice, behind Undra Billingsley and Dareus. He and safety Rod Woodson had trouble getting back to campus after Easter weekend.

Saban said he was pleased with the progress the team has made this week: "I'm anxious to see how we'll scrimmage this week. There's always a lot of room to improve going from the first scrimmage to the second. I know we've gotten some players in the right position, I see them gaining confidence with the repetitions that they're getting."

With the injuries at interior linebacker true freshman Jalston Fowler was getting some extra reps Wednesday. Also, walk-on safety Will Lowery was getting more playing time at safety, even with the first unit.

Upshaw said he's completed court-ordered anger-management classes as part of his agreement after he and a female student were arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence/harassment on Aug. 19. "Everything is done," Upshaw said.

Kendell Kelly practiced again at free safety while Brandon Gibson was at wide receiver. Both are learning safety as a precautionary measure.

Saban hasn't completely given up on incoming junior college cornerback DeQuan Menzie possibly playing in the fall after recently rupturing an Achilles tendon playing basketball. He's expected to be sidelined six-to-eight months.


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