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April 14, 2012
Corners, receivers trade blows during spring game
TUSCALOOSA | Two of the most inexperienced positions on the field for the University of Alabama this fall - wide receivers and cornerbacks - spent the afternoon trading blows on A-Day in front an announced crowd of more than 78,000.
Results were mixed.
But the wide receivers for the first-team offense definitely made their presence felt. Kenny Bell led the Crimson team with five receptions for 86 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker pass from AJ McCarron. Christion Jones pulled in a touchdown catch of his own, and Kevin Norwood made four catches for 53 yards.
"Really, the guy can fly," McCarron said of Bell's speed. "You just have to lay it out there, and he goes and gets it."
Bell also beat cornerback John Fulton on an 32-yard reception in the first quarter, but Fulton wouldn't be fooled twice. Just before the half, UA ran Bell on a similar route against Fulton, and the coverage was shadow-tight.
"All the receivers are coming out there to make the corners better, and all the corners are out there to make the receivers better," Bell said. "That's why you go out and compete every day. The corners pick us up when we're slacking, and we picked the corners up when they're slacking."
Freshman Chris Black delivered 61 receiving yards for the White squad, including a 44-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Sims.
But the cornerbacks had their moments, as well.
On a day that Alabama's coaching staffs threw a combined 72 times, there were plenty of plays to be had.
Junior college transfer Deion Belue led both teams with a pair of pass breakups for the White squad, while cornerbacks Travell Dixon and Bradley Sylve recorded one breakup each.
"Deion has had a really good spring and is a really good cover guy. He sometimes is not sure of exactly what he's doing," UA coach Nick Saban said. "We definitely need to get him to be a little more physical in run support and some of those things, but I think he's going to be a good player. John (Fulton) had a good spring. He's started to show he's more confident in what he's doing."
There were plenty of downfield passes that fell incomplete due in large part to tight coverage. Redshirt freshman cornerback Jabriel Washington forced incompletions on deep passes to DeAndrew White and Marvin Shinn in the second half.
The UA secondary must replace three lost starters, including cornerbacks DeQuan Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick. Dee Milliner represents Alabama's lone experienced cornerback. The two-year starter will be a junior this fall, but the UA coaching staff calls for three cornerbacks in its oft-used nickel defense. Fulton and Belue are two of the top candidates for the remaining playing time to be had at cornerback, along with Washington, Sylve and junior college transfer Dixon.
On the other side of the ball, the receivers look to replace departed starters Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks.
"I feel like there is room for me to improve, but I think I had a good day," Bell said. "I think I can still improve on my blocking and certain other areas. But I thought I had a good day overall."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196