Takeaways from Alabama's A-Day game
Several stars were missing, and the stadium was limited to 50 percent capacity. Still, football was back in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Saturday as the Crimson Tide held its annual A-Day game.
The White team featuring the first-team offense came away with a 13-10 victory over the Crimson team which included the first-team defense. Saturday marked the 73rd A-Day game. The White team now holds a 43-29-1 advantage in the series.
Saturday’s scrimmage was a defensive struggle as there was only one offensive touchdown on the afternoon. However, a late drive by Bryce Young and the first-team offense set up a game-winning field goal from Will Reichard, who knocked the ball through the uprights from 19-yards out to give the White team the lead with 1:23 remaining.
Here are some notes from the scrimmage.
Mixed performances from the quarterbacks
With several key defensive players absent from A-Day, the stage was set for Young and the first-team offense to steal the show. While the sophomore earned MVP honors during the scrimmage, his performance was somewhat of a mixed bag as he finished 25 of 44 for 333 yards and a touchdown.
"I think he did a good job today," Saban said. "Probably in a game like today, there's a lot more drop-back passes just by the way you sort of plan the game. You have a minimal number of plays you're going to run in the game. So probably some of the issues we have in the offensive line with guys missing, the pocket collapses on him, and he was in some tough situations relative to that.
"But I think he's done a really good job all spring. We continue to work on him kind of having a presence out there that affects people in a positive way. I think he's starting to get more and more respect by the other players by the way he plays. Every scrimmage we had I thought he performed really, really well, and I think he performed well today."
Young hit tight end Cameron Latu for a 59-yard touchdown on the White team’s third drive of the game. The quarterback also showed off his five-star athleticism at times, including once during the opening drive when he juked out defensive lineman Byron Young before finding an open Roydell Williams for a 47-yard gain.
However, there were some moments that Bryce would probably want back. The sophomore nearly threw an interception near his own end zone in the second quarter as freshman linebacker Deonte Lawson broke up a screen pass intended for Keilan Robinson. Later in the quarter, Bryce was stripped by Chris Braswell near his own end zone, allowing Jaylen Moody to recover for a touchdown.
Paul Tyson also had an up-and-down day, completing 18 of 34 passes for 171 yards while failing to lead his offense to the end zone. Walk-on Braxton Barker was 4 of 8 for 74 yards with two interceptions.
Sophomore backs shine
The A-Day game often serves as a showcase for future breakout stars. Saturday, Williams and Jase McClellan became the latest upcoming players to introduce themselves to the Tide faithful.
The pair of sophomore backs both contributed on the ground and through the air. Williams, who played with the first-team offense, finished the afternoon with 43 yards on 12 carries while tallying four receptions for 65 yards. McClellan who played on the second-team offense, recorded 46 yards on 12 carries while tallying seven receptions for 62 yards.
"They're both great running backs," safety Jordan Battle said. "They have great balance in running the ball. They have speed and power. And they're both low to the ground, so that makes them a little hard to tackle. Overall, they're both great players. They're going to be great players for us in the future."
Last weekend, Nick Saban revealed that Williams had the most rushing yards during Alabama’s second scrimmage. According to sources at that scrimmage, the sophomore ran for more than 100 yards.
During his freshman season last year, McClellan led the Tide averaging 10.65 yards per carry while recording 245 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Williams didn’t get much playing time during his freshman season, tallying 19 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown over eight games. Saturday both backs looked like future contributors for the upcoming season.
Alabama looks fine at receiver
Despite its exodus of talent the past two offseasons, Alabama’s receiving corps looks just fine moving forward. The Tide was led by two young receivers Saturday as sophomore Traeshon Holden and freshman Agiye Hall both had big games.
Holden recorded a game-high nine receptions for 89 yards while working with the first-team offense. Meanwhile, Hall showed his athleticism with a few highlight grabs while reeling in four receptions for 72 yards on the second-team offense.
Holden came to Alabama as a four-star prospect in last year's class. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder appeared in five games last season but did not record a reception.
"I think Trae's continuing to work hard," receiver Slade Bolden said. "I think he's starting to understand what we expect from him, and he's done a good job putting in the work and he had a good day today. I hope he continues to do that."
Hall, 6-foot-3, 193 pounds, joined Alabama in January as the No. 71 overall player and No. 14 receiver in this year's class. According to sources, the four-star has shown his big-play ability several times during camp.
"I think he's a young player, he's getting better every day," Saban said. "I think he has a lot of ability. I think he's not 100 percent sure sometimes of what he's doing, so to get him to play fast all the time is something that he wants to do and he naturally does. But like any player, most of the time when they're not sure what they are doing, they're not playing fast.
"He has made significant improvement throughout the spring, and he's someone who we think has a lot of potential. He makes a lot of contested catches, he's got great size. He's got really some explosive speed that I think we need some guys to complement John Metchie when he gets back. We're pleased with his progress, and he had a very good spring."
Alabama lost two first-rounders last offseason in Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy. The Tide will likely produce two more first-rounders this year in Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Along with the absence of Smith and Waddle on Saturday, Alabama was also without its leading returning receiver in John Metchie III, who has sat out this spring due to injury. Despite being short-handed, the Tide tallied a combined 578 yards through the air between its two teams.
Young to Latu could be a scoring connection
Alabama knew it had one receiving threat at tight end with Jahleel Billinglsey returning after recording 18 receptions for 287 yards and three touchdowns last season. Now it appears as though the Tide could have another pass-catcher at the position.
Cameron Latu continued his strong spring Saturday, reeling in a pair of receptions for 65 yards, including his long touchdown from Bryce. According to sources, the score was the fourth time the two have hooked up for a touchdown this spring as the quarterback hit Latu for two touchdowns in the first scrimmage before finding him for another last weekend.
Latu began his college career as an outside linebacker. After redshirting during his first year in 2018, he made the switch to tight end where he has worked the past two seasons. Latu played in 12 games last season but has yet to record a catch for Alabama during a real game.
“He’s had a really good spring so far, shown a lot of maturity, made a lot of plays,” Saban said following last week’s scrimmage . “He’s a very athletic guy. He’s a good C-area blocker. He’s got a much better command of the offense. I think he’s much more confident. And he’s a really good receiver, he’s got good hands. So we’re really pleased with the progress he’s made.”
A rough day for Will Reichard
Alabama will hope Saturday’s special teams performance is a rare slip up from Reichard, reversion to its past kicking game woes.
The steady placekicker was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season, connecting on all 14 of his field-goal attempts as well as all 84 of his extra-point tries. That consistency went out the window during the A-Day game as the junior went 2 of 5 on field goals, missing from 52, 48 and 33 yards out.
Reichard did rebound to drill the eventual game-winning kick through the uprights from 19 yards out. He figures to be just fine for the Tide moving forward.