TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ The University of Alabama defense got a little bit of a surprise when sophomore Eddie Jackson was able to run drills with the other cornerbacks Friday morning.

Wearing his usual No. 4 in addition to a knee brace, it was his first practice since undergoing surgery to repair a knee ligament in April.

“We kind of have him on a pitch count as to what he’s going to do,” Coach Nick Saban said. “With these guys, it’s always about how much can they do before they start to get sore or before they start to break down relative to where they are. We’d like to just not push the envelope too far that we get to that point.”

With Alabama holding two practices on the first day of training camp — veterans in the morning and the younger players in the evening — Jackson was working alongside junior Bradley Sylve, redshirt freshman Anthony Averett, junior Cyrus Jones, and true freshman Tony Brown, who was an early enrollee.

Alabama won’t put on full pads until Sunday’s Fan Day practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium (2:30 p.m. CT)

“Eddie’s a tough competitor, a hard worker,” junior linebacker Denzel Devall said. “He’s just got a great spirit out there when he’s out there. He loves helping the younger guys out and just helping out the team anyway he can. It felt good to see Eddie out there getting into some work and doing some drills. I’m happy for him.”

In seven games last season Jackson had one interception and was credited with 19 tackles, three passes defended and two fumble recoveries.

With four starts he was part of the musical chairs at cornerback, as converted wide receivers Jones and Sylve made five and three starts, respectively, and sophomore Maurice Smith had one.

“Last year, we had the most inexperienced group of people in the secondary that we have ever had in terms of playing their position,” Saban said.

Although Alabama never disclosed the severity of Jackson’s injury it occurred during the Crimson Tide’s first scrimmage of the spring during a play the cornerback was not involved in any contact.

“Eddie was having a great spring and probably our best corner, most consistent,” Saban said at the time, after Jackson “just jumped up in the air for a ball and came down funny.”

Saban elaborated a little more after Friday’s morning practice .

“Eddie took all the tests and passed them, so straight-line running is not the issue,” he said. “It’s cutting, changing direction, doing those kinds of things and see what issues those things create.

“But we’re very encouraged with where he’s at. We’re making no predictions about when he’ll be able to get back and play. We’re just going to evaluate him one day at a time and try to bring him along so that at some point in time he’s going to be able to come back and contribute for us.”