TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football hosted its first scrimmage on Friday, its first of three during the 2021 spring practice season.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said that overall, he was pleased with how his players and new coaches performed inside Bryant-Denny Stadium during their first opportunity for a full-speed scrimmage with game-like situations.
“I was, for a first scrimmage, I was sort of pleased with the intensity out there,” Saban said on Friday afternoon following the scrimmage. “There was a lot of good hitting, and, you know, there was a lot of good things to teach from.”
This season, Alabama has a large group of young players following the departure of many key veterans that contributed to the team’s run for its 18th national title in 2020. Some of those key departures include quarterback Mac Jones, wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, offensive linemen Landon Dickerson, Alex Leatherwood and Deonte Brown along with key defenders like defensive lineman Christian Barmore, defensive back Patrick Surtain II and linebacker Dylan Moses.
Saban noted that with the plethora of young talent being needed to step up in key roles, it was crucial for them to get experience in game-like situtions.
“We got a lot of young guys playing a lot of positions, so I'm sure this first experience out there is going to help them be able to sort of do exactly what I said, you know, find out where they are, what they have to do, what they need to learn, and how they can go out there and play with more confidence because they have a better understanding of what to do, how to do it, why it's important to do it that way,” Saban said. “So, for a first scrimmage we're pretty pleased with it.”
One of the new players that Saban discussed on Friday was freshman defensive back Ga’Quincy ‘Kool-Aid’ McKinstry. McKinstry was the top high school prospect in the state of Alabama in 2020 and enrolled early to join Alabama during spring practices.
Saban said that while McKinstry is making progress, he isn’t 100-percent satisfied with where he is at this early stage of the spring.
“Kool-Aid, you know, is making progress,” Saban said. “I think, you know he’s shown that he has some ability to contribute to the team. I think that, you know he has to play with more consistency in his position. He needs to know what to do all the time. He's like all the other young players out there. I think these guys find out that this is not going to be as easy as they thought it was. But I think he's shown a lot of maturity. And he has played with toughness.
“I’m not satisfied with where he is, but I'm certainly pleased with the progress he's making.”
Another unit that has a lot of talent leaving for the NFL this season is the offensive line. Last season, the Crimson Tide had one of the top lines in the country, with the unit winning the Joe Moore Award along with Outland Trophy winner Leatherwood and Rimington Award-winning center Dickerson.
This year’s line sees the top two high school tackle prospects in J.C. Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer along with top center James Brockermeyer join the program. Along with returners Evan Neal and Chris Owens, the line will most likely have some kinks to iron out before the season gets underway due to so much young talent being added.
Saban said that the offensive line still has a long way to go but expects them to improve as the spring season rolls on.
“I think we got a long way to go,” Saban said. “We got a lot of young guys. I think they’ve got a lot of ability. I think their heads [are] swimming probably a little bit right now with all the different things that they have to learn on offense but you’re also seeing probably a lot more things than you’re used to seeing out of the defense so that creates a lot of multiples for a young guy.
“So we just want to get those guys to where they have confidence in what they need to do to be able to go out there and execute and do their job on a consistent basis and we’re not there yet and we’re making progress and I think that every one of those guys will see what they need to improve on and we’ll go to work on it on Monday.”
Alabama will host its second spring scrimmage next Saturday and will conclude its spring practice season with the annual A-Day Game on April 17.