Here are 10 takeaways coming out of the scrimmage.
1. A potent pass rush
Thanks to their black, no-contact jerseys, Young, Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson were able to survive the onslaught of sacks divvied out by Alabama’s defense Saturday. Opposing quarterbacks next season won’t be as lucky.
Crimson Tide pass-rushers combined for 15 total sacks during the scrimmage. The three-headed monster of Will Anderson Jr., Dallas Turner and Chris Braswell accounted for seven of those.
Alabama is looking for ways to put that five-star trio on the field together more this season. The scary thing is the Crimson Tide’s outside linebacker unit has two additional five-star talents in Demouy Kennedy and Jeremiah Alexander. They both joined in during Saturday’s sack party as well.
“I think this year is gonna be something special,” Anderson said. “I think you guys talk about the 2016 defense’s pass rush, I feel like you guys are definitely getting ready to see that again because we have a lot of talented young guys on the edge and in the D-line room. It’s gonna be something special this year.”
2. Burroughs' big presence up frontWhen asked about the improvement in Alabama’s defensive front, the first name to come out of Saban’s mouth was Jamil Burroughs. The 6-foot-3, 309-pound defensive tackle wrapped up a productive spring with a pair of sacks Saturday while working with the first-team defense.
Burroughs appeared in just three games last season, recording two tackles, including a sack. If he’s able to maintain his spring form, he figures to see the field quite a bit more this fall.
Alabama will need Burroughs and the rest of its defensive linemen to step up as it looks to replace the inside presence of Phidarian Mathis, who departed for the NFL this offseason after finishing second on the team with nine sacks last year.
Along with Burroughs, Saban also mentioned Tim Smith, Tim Keenan III and Damon Payne as defensive tackles who showed growth this spring.
“They all improved,” Saban said. "But the key to the drill is can they stay focused on continuing to do that.”
3. Well-stocked at WREven after losing three starting receivers from last year’s team, Alabama doesn’t appear to have a shortage of targets for Young to turn to. The Crimson Tide’s pass rush snuffed out much of the offensive production on Saturday, but there were still opportunities for the receiving corps to show its big-play ability.
Christian Leary recorded five receptions for 106 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown in which he beat Malachi Moore down the right sideline before getting on the end of a deep throw from Milroe. While Leary led the second-team offense, fellow sophomore JoJo Earle paced the first-team unit with four receptions for 51 yards.
Young also found Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton three times for 36 yards while hitting Traeshon Holden three times for 34 yards. Meanwhile, freshman Kendrick Law continued to make a solid first impression, pulling in four catches for 30 yards with the second-team unit.
“I think some of the young guys have made an impact this spring. [Kendrick Law] and [Aaron Anderson] both made some plays out there today,” Saban said.
“Jermaine Burton has probably been the most consistent guy at the position. So it’s obviously a place where we need to get more consistent, there’s no question about it, in my opinion. If we’re gonna be able to take advantage of the other strengths that we have on our team, I think that’s gonna be a really important part of our development as an offensive team.”
4. Rain dropsThere were some negatives from the receiving corps as the unit suffered a few more drops during the scrimmage. Some of that can be attributed to Saturday’s rainy weather. However, after mishandling 32 passes last year, drops are still a potential concern for the Crimson Tide.
“You never want drops,” Saban said. “I think we’ve gotta be a little more consistent. We had some drops in the last scrimmage where we didn’t have bad conditions, and we had some today. But the conditions cannot be an excuse. I mean, you’ve gotta be able to play and adapt to whatever the circumstances are. We can’t control the weather. And I think there’s focus, concentration, maturity, all those things go with that.”
5. Gibbs gives Alabama's backfield new styleFor the first time in the Saban era, there isn’t a true bruiser in Alabama’s backfield. The Crimson Tide is used to its star back coming with a bit of size.
Brian Robinson Jr. weighed in at 225 pounds last year, while 230-pound Najee Harris carried the bulk of the load during the 2020 and 2019 seasons. Then there was Derrick Henry, who was listed at 6-foot-3, 242 pounds during his Heisman-winning season in 2015.
Jahmyr Gibbs, 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, offers a different skill set as his game revolves more around speed and agility than bowling over defenders. The Georgia Tech transfer put that on display Saturday, earning MVP honors while tallying 109 total yards and a touchdown. That production included a 75-yard score as the speedy back zipped through a hole in the middle of Alabama’s line before turning on the jets en route to the end zone.
“I think he gives us something at the running back position because he’s really good at pressing the holes, but he has a great burst to get to top speed quickly in setting up blocks,” Saban said. “Very good running back, very good receiver, a good third-down back. Very good addition.”
6. Much-maligned OLThe sore spot from Saturday’s scrimmage comes on the offensive line as both the first-team and second-team units were bullied throughout the afternoon. On the bright side, the unit is set to receive a boost this fall with the arrival of Vanderbilt transfer Tyler Steen and the return of starters Darrian Dalcourt and Emil Ekiyor Jr., who were both nursing injuries this spring.
Following Saturday’s scrimmage, Saban spoke highly of five-star offensive tackle J.C. Latham, stating the sophomore has “made a lot of progress” this spring.
“I think he’s a lot more confident,” Saban said. “He certainly has the ability, and the more knowledge and experience he gains, the better he’s gonna get. So we’re not satisfied with where he is, but we’re pleased with the progress he’s making. And he’s one of those guys that needs to continue to focus on his development.”
7. Alabama's future is bright at QBWhen they weren’t being forced to run for their lives, Alabama’s two backup quarterbacks looked promising. Milroe finished the day 11 of 23 for 149 yards and a touchdown with an interception while adding 32 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Simpson completed 5 of 12 passes for 43 yards while adding 18 more yards with his feet.
“I think they were much better,” Saban said. “Obviously, Jalen can make plays running the ball, and he made some today. But he also made some good throws. We were especially conscious of the fact that we were not gonna do the things that he could do in the spring. We were gonna make him run the offense, try to become a better passer, try to become a better pocket presence, a better reader of coverages, and I think he made progress in those areas.
“And Ty, for a guy that’s only been here in the spring, I thought he made some good plays for the first time out. He’s a very conscientious guy, really works hard at it. Preparation is important to the development of quarterbacks, and those guys have done a good job all spring.”
8. Watch OuztsA-Day is a time when potential breakout stars can introduce themselves. While Robbie Ouzts’ two catches for 13 yards don’t necessarily stand out on the stat sheet, the sophomore tight end looked impressive during the scrimmage.
“He’s had a really good spring,” Saban said. “He’s one of the most improved guys. I think he got that award today. I think his confidence is a lot better. I think he’s playing a little faster. And we need depth at that position, so we need to continue to find guys that can develop and help us at that position.”
9. Keep an eye on KhyreeSpeaking of potential breakout players, Khyree Jackson is a name to circle moving forward. While most of the talk at the cornerback position has centered around five-star talents Kool-Aid McKinstry and Eli Ricks, Jackson has maintained a starting role on the first-team defense all spring. Saturday, the former JUCO transfer played like a first-teamer as well, tallying a pair of pass breakups and five tackles.
“Khyree is showing a lot more maturity in his consistency in performance and playing with a little better technique and understanding what he has to do to be successful at his position,” Saban said following the scrimmage.
Jackson and McKinstry started for the first-team defense Saturday while Ricks worked with the second-team unit. Saban said all three cornerbacks are competing for the openings left behind by Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis.
10. Kicking consistencyThe poor weather might have affected Alabama’s receivers' ability to hold onto the ball, but it didn’t seem to bother the special teams unit. Alabama’s kickers were perfect on the day as Will Reichard and Jack Martin both went 3-for-3 on field goals. Reichard’s long came from 44 yards out while Martin’s biggest make was a 40-yarder.
Punter James Burnip also put in a solid performance, averaging 42.0 yards per punt while dropping three of his four boots inside the 20-yard line. His longest punt of the day went 49 yards.