Welcome to another hour-long chat about all things Alabama football. I'll skip the pleasantries and jump right in. As usual, first come is first served and don't be bashful about asking multiple questions. I'm here for an hour which means I've got some time.
Why are analysts not talking about the Alabama pro day in depth? It seems to me that several of Bama's players had good performances (J. Williams, R. Lester, Kelly Johnson).
It's a deep class, but there aren't a lot of standouts beyond the obvious ones in Dee Milliner, Chance Warmack and Eddie Lacy. Jesse Williams, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones will all be solid pros, but beyond them is a bit of a mystery. Michael Williams is a solid No. 2 tight end who should have a long career ahead of him, Robert Lester has too much knowledge of the game to not catch on with a franchise, and Quinton Dial is an intriguing prospect because of his size and Damion Square might draw some interest because of his versatility. But let's face it, there's a reason Kelly Johnson was a walk-on. He lacks in talent and no matter how hard he plays, it's hard to find a place to play on Saturdays with effort alone.
Alex, Is Derrick Henry the tallest RB Alabama has ever had?
It's safe to say he is at 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds. And he carries the bulk well. The one concern is his pad level at that height. Backs need a low center of gravity to do well and it remains to be seen whether his will translate well to the college game. Also, remember that Alabama has another tall running back already committed for next year's class: The 6-foot-2 Bo Scarbrough.
Who will be on Special Teams for Alabama in 2013?
Tough to say seeing as most of the special teams work is kept from our view in the media. Also, special teams is traditionally a unit stocked with rookies and many of them haven't arrived on campus yet. If you're asking about the specialists (kicker, punter, return man), there is a little bit we know. Cody Mandell will obviously return at punter, and he had a very solid year in 2012. Cade Foster will likely retain his kickoff and long-range placekicking duties, and could take on more if he beats out redshirt freshman Adam Griffith. Saban said he wants a competition from the two kickers as the short-range and extra point kicker from a year ago, Jeremy Shelley, is gone. As far as who will return kicks and punts, that's up in the air. Christion Jones is the frontrunner, but he was up-and-down last year and his replacement, Cyrus Jones, wasn't much better. Look for a youngster to get in the mix there.
How close do you think the Alabama - Ole Miss game will be this year?
It could be very close. I see Ole Miss as a team on the rise, though I'm clearly not alone in thinking that. Hugh Freeze has built up that program very quickly (recruiting, anyone?) and they stand to get much better on defense in 2013. Though I think Alabama is much better athletically in most positions, there's always the possibility for an upset when you're talking about an SEC team with a lot of confidence. And we're all aware that if there's a hole in Alabama's defense, it's been defending uptempo, spread offenses, which the Rebels will run, and run well.
Alex, love the way Bama is starting off the playoff inaugural season with a tough non-conference match up. Do you think this will lead the majority of contenders to finally open up their schedules?
To be clear, the playoff won't start until after this coming season. But even then, Alabama is pushing all in with the season openers, scheduling Va Tech this season, West Virginia in 2014 and Wisconsin in 2015. Though Alabama will likely keep some puff games like Chattanooga and Georgia State, the schedule as a whole is improved with solid out of conference matchups. I think you're already seeing teams go the direction of high-profile season openers and you'll continue to see that if for nothing other than to start the year with a bang.
Have you heard anything on how Leon Brown is looking? Looking at practice pictures, he's a good bit thicker than I expected him to.
By last count, he's already added 13 pounds from the time he enrolled in January. That's a big leap for a man already pushing 300 pounds. Either way, he's been in much better shape than I expected too, specifically in his footwork. He's much quicker than I anticipated. I'd still like to see better upper body strength, but so far what I've seen of him has been positive. Though I believe Austin Shepherd will ultimately start at RT, I think Brown has a chance to give him a run for his money.
How is Faciane progressing? He looks like a Michael Williams clone, but that doesn't necessarily mean he plays like him.
You're not far off with the Michael Williams comparison. Faciane is a thick tight end, weighing in most recently at 267 pounds. While he hasn't done much in the passing game since signing at Alabama in 2011, it's still early. Going back to his high school scouting evaluation, there's reason to expect some athleticism from him. He was the No. 4 TE in the country that year and clocked in at a roughly 4.7 40 yard dash. While he's not as nimble in the hips as you'd like, he's got good enough hands to make up for it.
Amari Cooper, will he be best receiver to come to Alabama? Prowthro- Julio status?
He's certainly on track to reach that type of lofty status. After all, there's a reason he's currently the rookie record holder among receivers for yards, receptions and touchdowns. And he accomplished most of that after the first half of the season. You'll remember he had just five receptions through the first three games. It was only after some injuries at the position that he began to take on more responsibility. There's no reason to believe his success won't continue, either. He's got the right build for the position and he's got that extra level of speed that most good receiver have. I can't count on one hand the number of times I've seen him drop a pass. He'll be AJ McCarron's No. 1 target this coming season for sure.
anyone looking good so far the first week of practice?
There are a number of guys, but the one that stands out most to me is early enrollee wideout Raheem Falkins. He's a big receiver -- the tallest on the roster at 6-4 -- and he's got better than expected quickness. He gets out of his breaks very well and he's got a pair of very big mitts on him. Which is all a way to say he's a vacuum when it comes to catching the football. With two receivers trying their hand at DB, he'll have an opportunity to create a niche for himself right away. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the steal of the 2013 class.
That sophomore back up DB Taylor Morton has an amazing story doesn't he, do you expect to see any PT for him in the near future?
Too tough to say given what I noted earlier about the mystery surrounding special teams early in the spring. If he did make an impact, it would be on heck of a story.
It may be too early to tell this but has there been any consistency in the order of the rotation of QBs? Also have one of the three freshmen stood out from the other two?
Too early to say and the rotation is rarely an indicator of where the player stands on the depth chart. Saban and the staff are too clever for that at quarterback. So far, though, I'd say the job of backup is Alec Morris' to lose. He's a big kid and he's got a strong arm on him. And not only that, I've liked what I've seen in terms of getting the ball out quickly. That's something that the younger guys, and in particular Cooper Bateman, has struggled with. The standout among the early enrollees is walk-on Luke Del Rio. You can tell he's a coach's son with the way he carries himself and his technique. He has a chance to earn a scholarship and challenge some of the more heralded young quarterbacks.
Will someone finally manage to hire away Kirby Smart after this year? And what programs would have a legit shot at stealing him away?
This HAS to be the year, right? Honestly, though, who knows. He's been such a patient guy when it comes to taking the right opportunity, and it's a smart move on his part for doing so. I do, however, think it's time. While I can't say what job might be open -- it's way, way too early to speculate on that -- I think there will be a high-level D-I job that will attract him. It's a BCS school or bust. And the longer he stays at Alabama, the closer he is to becoming Saban's successor.
Thoughts on the weight loss of Kirven and Ball, yet Orr and Tomlinson gained large amounts of weight......
All good news as far as Alabama is concerned. Ball will give the Tide a more athletic interior linemen against mobile quarterbacks and Tomlinson adding weight won't limit his athleticism and ability to rush the passer on the line. You're talking about a wrestling champion at defensive end -- the potential for him to do well is very high. Kirven is a question mark in that he's always been in pretty good shape. I want to see more from Orr and him in practice before I say more about what their newfound physical outlook plays on the depth chart.
Who do you think wins the back-up quarterback position?
As I said earlier, I think it's Alec Morris' to lose. He wasn't a four- or five-star recruit, but he sure looks like a quarterback off the hoof. He's the biggest on the roster and might possess the best arm. How that translates to on-field results remains to be seen, but Alabama fans have to like what they see in practice. At the very least, he'll make the competition to replace AJ McCarron that much better next year.
Do you see reuben foster getting any playing time this year? I think he could be a great asset on the field spying manziel because of his closing speed on ball carriers.
I hate to be cliche, but it all depends. If he were in camp now, I'd say his chances were better, but given that he'll have a short time to learn a large playbook, I'd say you might want to hold off expectations for a year. He's there in terms of strength and athleticism, but that's not enough in this defense. You have to understand your job and the job of those around you. Until he's proven he can do that to the staff, he'll have to sit back and learn.
Do you see robert foster making it into the wr rotation?
Barring injury, I don't see it. The position is so stacked with talented guys as it is. There's Amari Cooper, Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White, Chris Black and Christion Jones who all demand playing time. Throw in Raheem Falkins who has emerged as a weapon, and the unit becomes that much more crowded. I think we see the staff be patient and redshirt Foster if possible.
Alex I see the TAMU game being different this time around. Saban now has a full season's worth of tape to study Manziel. No way the defense isn't prepared for his unpredictability this time around. Saban with time never fails. Your thoughts?
I'd agree with this one caveat: The game is in College Station, a place Alabama hasn't played at in a long, long time. It's a raucous environment that can trouble offenses, not to mention how young the Alabama O-line is now. While I don't buy in to the notion TAMU will be better this year -- I'm concerned about Manziel's newfound fame, the loss of Joekel and a defense now missing its biggest playmaker -- that doesn't mean it won't be one of Alabama's toughest games of the season. And, again, when you're talking about going on the road in the SEC, anything can happen.
How is reggie ragland progressing and will he be in the mix at lb?
I believe we'll see him in a few packages this year. Physically, he's very impressive -- big, athletic and strong. He's the largest linebacker on the roster and the only one bigger (Dickson) is a hybrid DE. Given Mosley's limitations as he recovers from shoulder surgery, there's an opportunity this spring for Ragland to make his case.
Progress of Jai Miler and Ragland so far
Just posted about Ragland so I'll refer you to that, but as for Miller, there's only been positive reviews to come out of camp so far. The players say he's just one of the guys and judging by what I've seen on the practice field, he's physically ready and isn't on quite the learning curve I expected. He's still making a huge transition so hold your breathe, but so far the news on him is good.
Who steps up at db this year?
A couple of guys, but most notably Geno Smith. He came up big late in the season and won the third cornerback spot, very much holding his own against UGA. With Milliner gone, I believe he'll start alongside Deion Belue. He's a talented guy with the confidence to handle the position. Another one to keep an eye on is Bradley Sylve. With John Fulton out this spring with a turf toe injury, he has a chance to earn more reps.
Do you think it is time for us to get a new basketball coach in? Team just looked lost at times and in critical situations. No excuses to lose some of the games they did this year and thats coaching..
This will be the last question, and I think it's a fitting one because it is very much up for debate. Personally, I'm tired of all the excuses surrounding the program. No longer can people claim it's just a young team and they'll get better. That's not the college basketball world the rest of the nation lives in. Youth cannot be an excuse. Grant needs to get better post players and more talented prospects in the program. There are some pieces in place and I don't think it's quite time for him to go, but I think it's worth asking questions about the real potential of hoops in Tuscaloosa.
It was fun, fellas. Thanks for participating in today's chat and remember I'll be back here at the same time and same place next week. Get your questions in early and we'll get started right away then. In the meantime, check out TideNationESPN.com for your latest Alabama news. If you've got a question or comment, get in the forum and I'll respond there. You can also reach me on Twitter at @AlexS_ESPN. Enjoy your Easter weekend.