Thursday, August 5, 2010
Opening camp: Alabama
By ESPN.com staff
Schedule: Practice starts Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET for the first group and 8:30 p.m. ET for the second group. The first day in full pads is Monday (Aug. 9).
What’s new: After James Willis left to be Tommy Tuberville’s defensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Alabama coach Nick Saban promoted Jeremy Pruitt to a full-time assistant from his role as director of player development. Pruitt will work with the secondary.
Sidelined: Saban announced Wednesday that sophomore safety Rod Woodson has left the program and plans to transfer. Signees Ronnie Carswell and Wilson Love will grayshirt and enroll in January. A third signee, Deion Belue, has yet to qualify academically and won’t start camp with the Crimson Tide, who are still holding a spot for Blake Sims assuming he gets final approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Junior defensive end Marcell Dareus will practice with the team while he awaits word from the NCAA on whether he will be suspended for any games as a result of his trip to Miami in the spring. The NCAA is investigating to see if any part of that trip was funded by agents.
Key battle: With the exception of Mark Barron at strong safety, every job in the secondary is up for grabs. Dre Kirkpatrick is the probable starter at one cornerback, but B.J. Scott will fight it out with junior college newcomer DeQuan Menzie and true freshmen DeMarcus Milliner and John Fulton for the other starting spot. Robert Lester has a beat on that second safety job, but true freshmen Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry could also be factors.
New on the scene: In addition to all the new faces in the secondary, a pair of true freshmen may be doing the kicking for the Crimson Tide this fall -- Cade Foster as the place-kicker and Jay Williams as the punter. Redshirt freshman D.J. Fluker is the favorite to win the right tackle job on the offensive line. True freshman receiver DeAndrew White has been impressive with his speed during summer workouts.
Breaking out: Alabama has stockpiled talent at the linebacker position over the last few years. Don’t be surprised if junior Courtney Upshaw emerges as the next All-SEC linebacker for the Crimson Tide.
Don’t forget about: Dont’a Hightower was on the field last season for less than four full games. Imagine how good that defense would have been had he been there all season. He’s back healthy now after recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and will step into Rolando McClain’s middle linebacker spot in Alabama's base defense and shift over to the “Jack” linebacker spot on passing downs.
All eyes on: Junior running back Mark Ingram. What’s he do for an encore after winning the Heisman Trophy? One thing’s for sure. He won’t have to do it by himself. His backup, Trent Richardson, might be just as good, meaning there could be a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Tuscaloosa this fall.
Quoting: “A lot of people ask, ‘How are you being motivated?’ The way I look at it is that if you’ve been to the mountain top, why would you settle for anything less?” -- Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy