TUSCALOOSA | As the University of Alabama football team grinds through the last of four two-a-day sessions Wednesday at the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility, younger players are being challenged mentally as much or more than physically.
But two of the new faces -- junior college transfers Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams -- have the advantage of being a bit more mature and experienced than other members of UA's signing class.
UA coach Nick Saban indicated that has been a benefit to both.
"(Young players) hit the wall at this time of the year," Saban said. "All the new guys in the program have at some point in time in these first 13, 14 practices, done that. But those two older guys have been able to sustain it a little better, and that's probably because of their maturity."
Saban said he did not know who would emerge as Alabama's starters at defensive end, but that Williams and Dial were among the top options at the position.
"Those guys are in our top four defensive ends, some kind of way. I don't know who the starters are at that position right now," Saban said. "... Jesse and Quinton are a little older, they're bigger, stronger guys."
Dial signed with UA out of high school but academics forced him to East Mississippi Community College for two years, and he re-signed with UA last December, enrolled in January and participated in spring drills. Williams, an Australian native, did not sign with UA out of high school but was recruited directly from Arizona Western Community College.
Although the defensive line must replace NFL first-round draft choice Marcell Dareus, Saban has said he believes there is more depth in that unit, particularly in the area of pass rushing, than it has had in the past.
"We have a lot of different guys like Damion Square, Jesse Williams, Quinton Dial that have been playing great football. I'm excited," said offensive lineman Barrett Jones. "Honestly, I have no idea who will start, but I think all those guys will get significant playing time and do a great job for us."
Two UA staff members named in report
A Yahoo! Sports investigative report alleging an eight-year pattern of egregious NCAA rules violations by former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro named UA offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and director of player operations Joe Pannunzio among several UM employees who either participated in or had knowledge of Shapiro's actions. Shapiro named Stoutland among six coaches - three in football, three in basketball - but declined comment on his relationship with Pannunzio. Yahoo! Sports reported it discovered 422 text or phone communications between Pannunzio and Shapiro from 2006 to 2010. A UA spokesperson said neither Stoutland nor Pannunzio would be made available for comment, per a standing team policy against UA football staff members speaking with media.
"He is the most pleasant, upbeat, positive, smile on his face all the time, easy-to-coach guy that wants to learn, that we've probably had around here for a long time. He has really got a great disposition about doing it and I think that will help him in the long run." - Saban on freshman safety Hasean Clinton-Dix.
The Million Dollar Band provided its annual tutorial of the school fight song for the Crimson Tide's new players Tuesday, playing 'Yea, Alabama' on the practice field following the afternoon practice. ... Defensive end Damion Square practiced with an eye patch after being poked in the eye but Saban said the junior had no problems with the patch Tuesday. ... The Crimson Tide will endure its final two-a-day session of fall camp Wednesday with a 9:30 a.m. practice and an evening practice at 7:30 p.m.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.