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March 30, 2008

Spring practice: Week 1 recap

Alabama has put the wraps on the first full week of spring football, 2008. If you haven't visited BamaOnLine.com on a daily basis in the past week, you've probably missed a lot. Below is a quick summary of the first six of the 15 practices allowed by the NCAA:

ROSTER NEWS

*** Head coach Nick Saban opened spring drills with a couple of medical announcements, including official notice of UA's application to get medical hardship status for cornerback Chris Lett. The freshman was unable to compete last fall, reportedly due to a diabetic condition, and his career as a player at UA is essentially finished. He will remain on scholarship but will not count against the 85-man roster.

*** Linebacker Ezekial Knight's condition continues to be uncertain. Knight has had two heart-related hospitalizations in the last two years, and was not cleared for spring practice. Knight has attended each practice in a non-contact jersey, but is not participating in drills of any kind. Saban has said there is no timetable for a decision on Knight's availability.

*** Defensive end Luther Davis was excused from spring practice for personal reasons and missed the first two days of practice. The freshman from Louisiana returned to the team following spring break, however, and has yet to miss a practice since his return.

*** Tight end Colin Peek, a transfer from Georgia Tech, has been practicing with the Crimson Tide but may have to sit out the 2008 season under NCAA transfer rules. Peek, who caught 25 passes last year with the Yellow Jackets, is appealing a hardship case with the NCAA in order to gain eligibility for 2008.

*** Linebacker Prince Hall will miss all of spring drills on an indefinite suspension.

POSITION MOVES

*** The long-awaited switch from running back to linebacker for Jimmy Johns actually happened during bowl practices in December, but this spring has been Johns' first real opportunity to show what he can do. He has worked with the first unit throughout spring drills at the weakside position. Saban has commented favorably on Johns' ability to make plays, but said he is understandably making mental errors as well.

*** Javier Arenas, who worked at safety during the second half of the 2007 season, returned to cornerback at the start of spring drills and has been working with the first unit.

*** Another former safety, Chris Rogers, has also made a move to corner.

*** Jack linebacker Brandon Fanney opened spring drills at a defensive end spot, but returned to his former position of 'Jack' linebacker on the same day that Davis returned to the team at defensive end. Saban has said Fanney may continue to get work at both spots during the spring.

*** Former tight end Charles Hoke has made a move to offensive tackle.

*** Former safety Tarence Farmer has been working with the wide receivers during spring drills.

*** Former wide receiver Travis Sikes has been working at safety.

*** Alfred McCullough, who worked at noseguard during the fall, has been at defensive end this spring.

INJURIES


*** Defensive end Milton Talbert, running back Glen Coffee and offensive lineman Patrick Crump have worked in a non-contact jersey since spring drills began. It is unclear whether any of them will be cleared for contact before drills come to a close on April 14.

*** Other players currently working in black non-contact jerseys include noseguard Brian Motley (fractured finger), Sikes (fractured elbow), cornerback Lionel Mitchell (back) and receiver Nikita Stover (hamstring). Saban said Stover had a strong performance in the offseason program and believes he will return before drills end. Mitchell, conversely, has a lingering back problem from last season and his return is indefinite.

*** Saban has noted that two players - receiver Will Oakley and defensive lineman Nick Gentry - are working through injuries but continue full participation in practice. Neither saw much of any action in Saturday's scrimmage.

FIRST SCRIMMAGE


The Crimson Tide defense held the upper hand on Saturday when UA held its first scrimmage of the spring. Cornerback Javier Arenas made a pair of interceptions to lead the red squad, while linebacker Cory Reamer and safety Justin Woodall made one pick-off each.

None of four quarterbacks - who threw 72 passes between them - completed more than 50 percent of his passes. John Parker Wilson connected on 15 of 36 attempts, while Nick Fanuzzi tossed the only touchdown pass, a 60-yarder to walk-on A.J. Walker.

The running game didn't fare much better as Terry Grant led the way with just 42 yards. He did escape for a 31-yard touchdown.

Leigh Tiffin converted 3 of 5 field-goal tries, while P.J. Fitzgerald punted for a 39.7-yard average.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK


"I think there's a distinct difference between those guys and John Parker right now in terms of command and confidence in what we're doing." - Coach Nick Saban on the development of his reserve quarterbacks.



SPRING PRACTICE CENTRAL

Check out all of BOL's coverage of spring practice at Spring Practice Central, a daily reference page linking all of our related content items.




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