Five Alabama players who are making the most of training camp
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ It may not exactly line up perfectly on the calendar, but Wednesday will be what the University of Alabama football team considers the midway point of its preseason.
The Crimson Tide will hold its last two-a-day of the fall and then begin preparing for the final closed scrimmage, set for Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Rest and recovery will be the order for the rest of the weekend and early next week, followed by some final installation and advance work on down-the-road opponents. Only then will Alabama turn its full attention to its first opponent, West Virginia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Aug 30, as Nick Saban believes that if you work more than seven-to-10 days on a single team the players start to lose focus.
If one were to make a list of things that haven’t surprised anyone in camp, topping it would be the quarterback competition not being settled and numerous players dealing with a variety of minor injuries.
On the flip side, considering the high level of talent the Crimson Tide has accumulated on the roster to say anyone has been a surprise for the better would probably be using incorrect terminology. However, here are five players who have made the most of their opportunities so far, and will almost certainly contribute this season:
Shaun Dion Hamilton: The freshman linebacker came in with the reputation for being a headsy player, and has done nothing to disappoint. The early enrollee is already solidly among the top four interior linebackers, but has also helped fill in some for senior Trey DePriest since he sustained a sprained knee during the first weekend.
“You know how it is as a freshman in Coach Saban’s system it’s hard to catch on at first, but Shaun came a long way since the spring and he knows what he’s doing now,” junior linebacker Reggie Ragland said.
Eddie Jackson: It’s one thing to say you’re going to try and come back from knee surgery in under four months, but another to do it. Following in the recovery footsteps of Vinnie Sunseri, the sophomore cornerback’s recovery has been nothing short of remarkable.
“Eddie’s a hard worker,” senior safety Nick Perry said. “He’s been in rehab two times a day. He made it his mission to be back for the season.”
Ross Pierschbacher: Alabama’s seamstress is probably having trouble figuring out how to get so many letters on the back of his jersey, while the true freshman has taken over as the backup to left tackle Cam Robinson. While that leaves two true freshmen at arguably the most important spot on the offensive line the guess here is the prospect from Iowa won’t be redshirting.
ArDarius Stewart: Often when a player is tried at another position, like Stewart was at a defensive back in the spring, the writing is on the wall that maybe he wasn’t at the right spot. However the redshirt freshman has made major strides and looks more comfortable, which in turn has led to more receptions in practice. Although Alabama has numerous talented young receivers, Saban called Stewart the most improved from a year ago. He also was one of the receiving leaders during the first scrimmage, with three catches for 33 yards.
Jonathan Allen: The sophomore defensive end was already a fixture in the rotation after having played in all 13 games last season, but with Brandon Ivory and Jarran Reed suspended for the first week, and sophomore A’Shawn Robinson likely out for another week with a sprained knee, Allen and sophomore Dalvin Tomlinson have had to especially step up. During last Saturday’s scrimmage Allen led all defensive players with five tackles and two sacks, which was likely influenced by who he was facing, but the converted linebacker is building on his impressive A-Day performance in the spring.
“Last year there was a lot of pressure and a lot of nerves,” Allen said. “This year I really feel more comfortable, starting to know the schemes, starting to know what other positions do, so it’s really been a great fit for me this year.”