TUSCALOOSA | It's been about seven months since the weight of D.J. Fluker came down on Trent Richardson's foot, which ultimately required the University of Alabama running back to be outfitted with a protective boot he often wore following practices last season.
Richardson joked throughout last season about the play in the San Jose State game in which Fluker, the biggest player on the team at 335 pounds, accidentally stepped on Richardson while attempting to block downfield for him.
So when the now-bootless Richardson entered the media room Wednesday and spotted Fluker interviewing with reporters while wearing a protective boot himself, he couldn't help but smile about it.
"He did good today. He was out there today doing some stuff. You ain't slowing him down," Richardson said. "That's D.J. Fluker for you, a big old 300-and-whatever pounds he is, 6-7, running behind - if I get a break, he's still trying to go down the field with me."
As for Fluker's boot, he said it is only precautionary and was expected to shed it Thursday.
Fluker, Alabama's starting right tackle, said his weight is down to 335 pounds, and he'd like to get under 330. That still makes him the biggest player on the team for the moment, but the third-year sophomore is in far better condition than he was when he first arrived at Alabama in the fall of 2009.
And he's also more comfortable with his assignments.
"D.J. last year, he was more focused on trying to learn, trying to get things going," Fluker said of himself. "This year, D.J.'s more laid back, watching film, trying to figure out what the defense's motives are right now. That's what he's doing. Now, since he's in his second year, he's learning a whole lot quicker."
While the battle at Alabama's other tackle position rages between Aaron Douglas and Alfred McCullough, Fluker is primed for a big season in his second year as a starter, one he hopes will be a healthy one. A groin injury sustained in Alabama's loss at South Carolina last season caused Fluker to miss most of the second half of the season.
McCullough filled in for him, an experience Fluker believes is helping McCullough now.
"It's good for our team because I went down last year and he filled a spot," Fluker said. "He's got a great attitude. Anywhere we need him to play, he's going to come in and play that spot. If the coach says jump, he says how high."
Saban addresses quarterbacks
Both of Alabama's top candidates at the quarterback position - sophomore A.J. McCarron and freshman Phillip Sims - posted strong statistical performances in the Crimson Tide's first scrimmage of the spring. UA coach Nick Saban has yet to indicate if either has moved ahead of the other, but cautioned against assumptions based on McCarron's edge in game experience.
"I think this (spring practice) is a much truer barometer for us to go on," Saban said. "Just because someone played some last year, I don't think anyone should assume that that gives them an advantage."
McCarron completed 30 of 48 passes last season as the backup to Greg McElroy while Sims redshirted. Nearly all of that action came in games that Alabama had well in hand.
"DeQuan Menzie was a guy that if you went on the last scrimmage based on him being healthy and being able to practice all the time, I sort of felt like in that particular scrimmage he was our best corner. Because of that, maybe the guy expands his role on our team. It makes good competition because we've got three guys that have played a significant amount at that position." - Saban on cornerback DeQuan Menzie.
Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Love (concussion) continues to be withheld from contact. Four other UA players -- safety Mark Barron, safety Jarrick Williams, safety Nick Perry and tight end Brad Smelley -- have been withheld from contact since spring drills began. ... Alabama resumes practice today at 3:30 p.m., where it will make its final on-field preparations for Saturday's scrimmage.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.