TUSCALOOSA | First teams are first-team for a reason.
The University of Alabama scrimmaged for the first time this spring at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, and that message came through clearly enough from coach Nick Saban's very first comment.
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Offensive guard Andy Dodd ends his recruitment by committing to Alabama a day after visiting for a Crimson Tide practice.
"Our first units really sort of dominated the scrimmage and played well and showed maturity and a competitive spirit that we need to be successful," Saban said. "I think the biggest thing is we need more players to understand what it takes to win."
According to statistics released by UA, quarterback AJ McCarron completed 25 of 43 passes in the scrimmage for 290 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception. That interception came at the hands of new cornerback Deion Belue, a junior college transfer, who raced 97 yards for a touchdown. Saban said he was pleased with McCarron's performance.
"AJ played well, was very commanding," Saban said.
Reserve quarterback Phillip Sims was only able to participate on a very limited basis due to shoulder soreness that Saban likened to bursitis. Other highlights included a 4-for-4 performance on field goals by Jeremy Shelley, a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown by sophomore safety Vinnie Sunseri, and a seven-catch, two-touchdown performance from receiver Christion Jones.
Players were unavailable for comment.
Alabama must replace seven starters on defense, and faces turnover at several offensive skill positions, particularly wide receiver.
"Christion Jones had a really good day today. Kenny Bell's had a really good spring. He's probably been the most consistent guy making plays," Saban said of the receivers.
The Crimson Tide has two more weeks of practice, including one more closed scrimmage, before the annual A-Day game on April 14.
"The whole goal of spring practice is you've got to get the right guys on the bus, you've got to get them in the right seats, and you've got to get the wrong guys off the bus," added Saban. "And I'm talking about character, attitude, competitive spirit, guys that can be responsible and accountable to do the job, that type of thing."
Saban on linebackers
Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson are two of the top candidates to replace outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris. Hubbard recorded a sack and two pass breakups Saturday, but Saban's interest at the position has to do with building depth.
"We're going to have to find some depth. Adrian Hubbard has had a real good spring," Saban said. "Xzavier Dickson had an ankle spring in the off-season. He's playing better and making progress. Behind them we don't have enough depth."
Thin up front
Reserve center Chad Lindsey missed the scrimmage with an injury, compounding a depth issue that left Alabama somewhat thin on the offensive line Saturday.
"He got dinged in the head a couple days ago and we just held him out," Saban said. "He'll probably be back on Monday, and Arie being out, we're a little thin in the offensive line."
"D.J. Fluker has had a phenomenally good spring. He's moving better. He's more confident. He knows what he's doing." - Saban on Alabama's starting right tackle.
Saban was not impressed with the way some of Alabama's candidates for the punt return job handled punts Saturday, but noted Christion Jones is strong in that area. Jones was the immediate backup to Marquis Maze as a punt returner last season. ... Wide receiver DeAndrew White missed the scrimmage with a hamstring injury. Saban said he hopes for White to be healthy in a few days. ... Alabama returns to practice Monday.
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AJ McCarron 25-43, 290 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jalston Fowler - 10 rushes, 27 yards, TD
Dee Hart - 13 rushes, 32 yards, TD
Ben Howell - 8 rushes, 31 yards
T.J. Yeldon - 7 rushes, 27 yards
Christion Jones - 7 rec., 83 yards, 2 TD
Kenny Bell - 3 rec., 68 yards, 1 TD
Kevin Norwood - 4 rec., 50 yards
Nathan McAlister - 5 rec., 51 yards
Marvin Shinn - 5 rec., 40 yards, 1 TD
Amari Cooper - 2 rec., 40 yards
Michael Williams - 3 rec., 37 yards
Cody Mandell - 9 punts, 383 yards, 42.6 avg., Long 51
Jeremy Shelley - 4 for 4, Long 38 yards (Made: 38, 38, 33, 18)
Cade Foster - 3 for 4, Long 44 (Made: 44, 27, 17; Missed: 54)
Vinnie Sunseri - 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT (TD), 1 PBU
Adrian Hubbard - 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PBU
Dee Milliner - 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT
C.J. Mosley - 3 tackles, 1 PBU
Nico Johnson - 3 tackles, 1 block
Deion Belue - 3 tackles, 1 INT (TD)
Trey DePriest - 2 tackles, 1 INT
Robert Lester - 2 tackles, 3 PBU
Passing Touchdowns (4): A.J. McCarron - 3 (44 yards, 8 yards, 22 yards); Phillip Ely 1 (11 yards)
Rushing Touchdowns (2): Dee Hart - 1 ((4-yards); Jalston Fowler - 1 (1 yard)
Defensive Touchdowns (2): Deion Belue (93-yard INT return); Vinnie Sunseri (38-yard INT return)