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April 6, 2012

Saban talks scrimmage

TUSCALOOSA | For the second consecutive week, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban was pleased with the first units in scrimmage play at Bryant-Denny Stadium. But for the second consecutive week, depth remains a concern for the sixth-year coach.

With three more practices remaining in spring drills, including next Saturday's annual A-Day game, developing more consistent play among reserves will be a focus for the UA coaching staff.

"The message to the players today was, 'Are you going to be able to go out there and play better today than you did in the last opportunity you had in the last scrimmage? ... The first units were probably pretty good at that, and I would say we made some improvement," Saban said. "But I'm not sure we have enough guys where they need to be. That's why we have spring practice, that's why they call us coach, that's why we teach. We certainly have some work to do, especially with the depth on our team."

Jalston Fowler led all rushers with 151 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns, with one of those going for 68 yards in a situational drill. While those numbers are far more impressive than Fowler's first scrimmage, Saban noted the offense ran more rushing plays and fewer passing plays than it did a week ago. As such, quarterback AJ McCarron (14 of 29, 160 yards, four TDs, one INT) had fewer opportunities.

Wide receiver DeAndrew White, who missed last week's scrimmage with a hamstring problem, led all receivers with five receptions for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Saban said an abnormal practice week in which UA practiced only twice between scrimmages had no negative impact on Friday's work, and in fact may have been a benefit due to an extra day of rest for the players.

"We did all the situations we normally do, we implemented them into the two practices we had. We used the extra day of practice we had prior the (first) scrimmage to actually be a little further ahead," Saban said. "I think game-wise, we looked a lot better as a football team. We were crisper, faster, maybe it was because we had (an extra) day off in between."

Return duties
Having been the backup to Marquis Maze last season as Alabama's punt returner, Christion Jones is a primary candidate for the same role in 2012. But his competition for the return job this spring includes running back Dee Hart and cornerback Deion Belue.

Saban said Jones is also a capable kickoff returner.

"Amari Cooper looks like a pretty good kickoff return guy," Saban said. "Dee Milliner will probably be back there as the off-returner on kickoff."

Sims limited again
Backup quarterback Phillip Sims was limited in scrimmage work for the second consecutive week with a sore shoulder.

"He worked today, but didn't throw much, and didn't really throw in the scrimmage," Saban said, "but he did scrimmage some and ran some running plays and did some other things to try to contribute to the team and contribute to his development."

Minor injuries
Saban said defensive backs Vinnie Sunseri, Robert Lester and Caleb Castille, as well as defensive lineman Jesse Williams, suffered sprains in the scrimmage, but none are believed to be serious. Sunseri, Castille and Williams sprained ankles, while Lester sprained a knee.

Saban said that while he was pleased with the overall effort of the first-team defense, the unit was guilty of a key mental error when an offsides penalty near the goal line gave the offense new life and an eventual touchdown. ... Alabama resumes practice Tuesday.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.

A.J. McCarron - 14 for 29, 160 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT

Jalston Fowler - 22 rushes, 151 yards, 3 TDs

DeAndrew White - 5 rec., 112 yards, 2 TD
Christion Jones - 5 rec., 61 yards, 2 TD
Kevin Norwood - 4 rec., 54 yards
Chris Black - 2 rec., 36 yards

C.J. Mosley - 8 tackles, 1 PBU
Damion Square - 5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks
Dee Milliner - 5 tackles, 1 FF
Trey DePriest - 5 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FR
HaHa Clinton-Dix - 4 tackles, 1 INT
Nick Perry - 4 tackles
Vinnie Sunseri - 4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
Jesse Williams - 4 tackles, 2 TFL
Tana Patrick - 4 tackles

Cody Mandell - 12 punts, 504 yards, 42.0 avg., Long 56

Cade Foster - 3 for 6, Long 50 (Made: 50, 20, 20; Missed: 46, 35, 32)

Passing Touchdowns (5): A.J. McCarron - 4 (16 yards, 11 yards, 2 yards, 2 yards); Phillip Ely 1 (2 yards)
Rushing Touchdowns (3): Jalston Fowler - 3 (3 yards, 1 yard, 68 yards [Situational])

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