Crimson Tide begins fall camp to prepare for 2012 season

By Marc Torrence

The Crimson White, U. Alabama via UWIRE

A familiar voice filled the warm, muggy air on Friday morning in Tuscaloosa, one that hadn’t been heard since the end of spring. Scott Cochran, Alabama’s strength and conditioning coach, barked at a group of Alabama football players as they stretched on the practice field. And that only meant one thing – football was back in Tuscaloosa.

While the team had been holding summer workouts in June and July, the Crimson Tide officially returned to the practice field on Friday for the first practice of fall camp and the 2012 season. The veteran players took to the field in the morning, while the younger players were scheduled to practice later that night.

“It was great to get started today,” head coach Nick Saban said after the morning session. “Really been pleased with the team chemistry and the attitude with this group of players that we have.”
“It went pretty well,” senior safety Robert Lester said. “A lot of guys out there are guys I recognize. It feels good to actually stop talking about what we’re going to do and actually go out there and start putting it together.”

Everyone was accounted for, save an unnamed player who is dealing with eligibility issues. That included running back Eddie Lacy and reserve offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio, both of whom did not participate in spring practice with nagging injuries.

Lacy, the starting running back heading into fall camp, has been dealing with a turf toe injury, but Saban said he fully participated in Friday’s practice, but was limited in how much cutting he can do.
“That will sort of be the next test [in his recovery],” Saban said.

Bell, Norwood lead receivers on offense

Elsewhere on offense, QB AJ McCarron split reps with Phillip Ely, the presumed backup entering camp. The pair threw to a receiving group led by Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell, as well as Brian Vogler at H-back.

“We threw it a lot, but there’s no pitch count,” McCarron said of his increased workload on Friday with just two quarterbacks. “Just go out there and practice. You’re going to be tired in the game. The biggest thing is when you get tired, like coach Ness always preaches, ‘Finish with your legs.’ You’ve got to get more power from your legs. I feel like it was a good day, though.”

The departure of Phillip Sims, who transferred to Virginia this offseason after losing the starting quarterback job to McCarron, leaves some room for competition at backup quarterback and Saban said Blake Sims will see reps at quarterback after primarily playing running back in 2011.

Linebackers in the spotlight on defense

On defense, junior Tana Patrick practiced with the first unit at outside linebacker. Sophomore Trey DePriest lined up at Mike linebacker, while junior C.J. Mosley and senior Nico Johnson split time in the Sam spot. Sophomore Adrian Hubbard flanked Patrick at Jack.

“It’s working right now,” Mosley said about the current lineup at linebacker. “I’m not complaining about it. Like coach says, everyone has to know his role and play it.”

“Adrian [Hubbard] just came off surgery a while back, so he’s kind of getting the kinks out, but he looked pretty good,” Johnson said.

In the secondary, Lester was joined by sophomores Vinnie Sunseri and HaHa Clinton-Dix at safety and Deion Belue, Travell Dixon and Dee Milliner at corner.

“The coaches trust that these guys can play. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get these guys ready to come out and fit in,” Lester said about leading an inexperienced secondary. “These guys are very capable of making those type of plays, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do go out and make it this year.”

Two-a-days? Not quite.

Alabama’s practice schedule doesn’t feature any two-a-day practices in the traditional sense – a practice in the morning, followed by another one later that afternoon. However, there are days when the Tide will practice in the morning, then later on at night, followed by another practice the next afternoon.
This schedule allows Tide players time to recover in between practices, including eating two meals and rehydrating, a philosophy Saban has used since he was at Michigan State.

“We feel that sometimes that’s just as effective,” Saban said. “We end up with more of our players on the field because we have less guys have issues, whether they’re injuries or heat problems. That’s why we have always done things the way we do them.”

“It’s a little more exhausting,” Lester said. “But when you get to the fourth quarter of the LSU game, you might be exhausted. It pays off to get that conditioning in.”

Fan day set for Sunday

Alabama will hold its annual Fan Day on Sunday, August 5 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Fans can watch an open practice from 2:30-4:30 p.m. and can attend an autograph session immediately after. Gates 11 and 17 will open at 1:30 for fans to enter.

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