Alabama football: Lessons learned from the first week of preseason practice
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama reported to preseason camp seven days ago and donned full pads for the first time on Tuesday afternoon inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility.
Assigning any absolutes to what's been seen during the limited portion of practice open to reporters is silly, so take what's forthcoming with some caution. Things can always change and, with the Tide's first scrimmage scheduled for Saturday inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, more definitives should be gleaned afterward from players and coaches.
Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide's first full week of practice produced some early answers to lingering summer questions. Here's what we learned during Alabama's first full week of preseason practice.
Though it'll have some Patriots flair, Brian Daboll's offense will cater to Alabama's strengths
Daboll made his lone media appearance of the regular season last Saturday, discussing his plans to enhance -- but not overhaul -- an Alabama offense that spent an offseason searching for more balance.
"There's obviously a lot of success here that they've had in the past," the first-year offensive coordinator said. "So, it'd be foolish to just take one offense that you're accustomed to running and try to adapt it to another team. Some of the plays suit, some of the plays don't suit. So, your job is to go ahead and mix and match and really find the best results for the guys that you're working with for that particular year."
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A career NFL offensive assistant who was most recently Bill Belichick's tight ends coach in New England, Daboll returns to college for the first time since his days as a Michigan State graduate assistant under Nick Saban.
According to some offensive players, he's brought at least some of those Patriots tendencies.
"Naturally," said left tackle Jonah Williams, who's studied film of the Patriots since Daboll was hired, when asked if there are similarities between the two offenses.
"But Daboll has come in and adjusted to what we run and also installed some of his own things. It's not going to be a stark difference or similarity either way."
There's an early front-runner for Alabama's fifth offensive lineman
Redshirt sophomore Matt Womack has worked at first-team right tackle during the open portions of all practices. Freshman early-enrollee Alex Leatherwood has been his backup.
Though he rotated with Leatherwood, Deonte Brown and Lester Cotton throughout the spring, Womack was the team's starting right tackle during the A-Day spring game. Cotton, the starting right guard for most of spring, has reassumed that role early this fall.
Notorious for not adhering to a depth chart -- he instead refers to a "rep chart" -- Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban was noncommittal about the right side of his line, especially given the little time his team spent in full pads.
"Like coach Saban always says, we'll play the five best," left tackle Jonah Williams said. "You might not always like it but it's always fair. So I'm not sure how it's all going to sort out in the end but there's a lot of guys that are working hard and a lot of guys that are showing good things in practice. I'm just excited about gelling as a unit."
Teammates' development will dictate where Minkah Fitzpatrick plays
Fitzpatrick's played both cornerback and safety during the open portions of practice, though was exclusively with the safeties during Alabama's two-hour, open practice inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. Trevon Diggs lined up at first-team cornerback.
Saban shot down a notion of making Diggs -- a receiver last season -- a two-way player. The team is fixated on developing him as a cornerback, where he moved midway through the spring, shifting Fitzpatrick to safety.
Diggs' development, and that of others, will determine where Fitzpatrick settles down.
"Minkah can play either place extremely well," Saban said when the Tide opened practice. "So based on how the other players develop will probably determine to a large degree how they end up playing."
Alabama hasn't found those "alpha dog" personalities yet
When he wasn't forced to rehash Alabama's last-second loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff Championship Game, Saban spent most of his offseason dissecting the departures of the many boisterous personalities on his defense.
One week in, there's been little discernible headway in replacing them.
"I think it's something that kind of develops over time. We're not there yet," Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said Saturday. "I think that develops as you practice. That's why you have fall camp. That's why they all live in the dorm together, kind of build some camaraderie there. You put them in adverse situations and the guys who are the leaders, they kind of rise to the top there. We'll figure it out over the next couple weeks."
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Fitzpatrick vowed during SEC Media Days to become more vocal and, by all accounts, that's manifesting. Defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne said "a lot of guys look to" Fitzpatrick, who he added has been "very vocal" since the spring.
Still, the Tide would like to see more develop.
"We all try to be a leader," outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings said. "It ain't really people that I can sit here and name that can be a leader, but everybody's trying to be a leader. It's ain't just a certain group that's leaders, we can all be a leader. Because if I'm doing something wrong, I want them to pick me up just like I would pick them up if I see they did something wrong."
This article is written by Chandler Rome from The Anniston Star and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.