It’s bad enough for SEC foes that Alabama returns more than a dozen starters from its 2011 BcS title-winning team.
Now those same teams are faced with the prospect of having to deal with at least a couple of new recruits who may be ready to make an instant and immediate contribution as the Tide attempts pull off a repeat.
The hands-down star of the game was running back T.J. Yeldon, who was one of a handful of early enrollees for the Tide this past winter. All Yeldon did was combine for 179 total yards — 88 rushing, 91 receiving — in helping lead the White team over the Crimson team, 24-15, in what’s officially called the Golden Flake A-Day Game. Included in that total was a 50-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Phillip Sims. For that performance, Yeldon was honored with the Dixie Howell Most Valuable Player of the Game Award
Additionally, fellow true freshman Chris Black caught a 44-yard scoring pass from Sims. The catch-and-run by the wide receiver was the first of two scores on the day thrown by Sims.
“It’s really important. It doesn’t really matter about the game. It’s basically another practice for us. You basically just want to see consistency,” head coach Nick Saban said of the performance put out there by the new players in general. “How do they do consistently playing that position and doing their role and playing their role and those guys have done a great job. You couldn’t ask any more from them and like I said as a whole offense we have to keep progressing and we’re going to have some ups and downs right now. We’re learning some new plays and doing some different things but as long as we just come out and get better every day we’ll be fine.”
Unfortunately, the player to whom Sims looks up to on the depth chart didn’t fare as well. While A.J. McCarron, who was quietly semi-spectacular in his first season as the Tide’s starter last season, matched Sims with a pair of touchdowns, he also threw three interceptions, including one on the first play from scrimmage.
Despite the uneven play from his starting QB and the stellar production from his true freshmen, Saban wasn’t getting too high or two low over either area, rather focusing on the improvement his squad made throughout the 15 spring sessions.
“One thing that never happens in college football is no one ever has a bad spring and no one ever has a bad spring game. We didn’t have one either,” Saban said in comments distributed by the team. “We had a lot of guys who made a lot of improvement this spring. We are still focusing on more and more guys knowing what it takes to win and the preparations, ability to adjust, play with poise, execute and do their job.
“None of that stuff happens by accident. It happens because of the way you prepare and the way you work. We will look and see how many guys have made progress in the regard. I think this game today was kind of a final exam for some of the players relative to spring practice. How much you improve, where you are in your development, are you ready to take responsibility for a role on the team.”
For those who are curious, the school detailed in its release that the format for this game was very similar to that of a regular season game: “he format for the A-Day game was much like a normal game, with a few minor variations primarily regarding the game clock. The game consisted of four 15-minute quarters with a running clock. The clock stopped only following scoring plays, penalties, and changes of possession. Regular clock rules were used during the final minutes of the second quarter and the fourth quarter.”
Incidentally, the game was played in front of 78,526 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the fifth-largest attendance mark for an A-Day football game. It was however, roughly 14,000 less than the record crowd that watched the Tide’s spring game last season.
(For all of CFT’s coverage of the 40-plus spring game action Saturday, click HERE.)