Jalston Fowler

Alabama having a hoot against FAU

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A week after receiving more fo a challenge from West Virginia as many suspected, Alabama is showing no mercy in the home opener against Florida Atlantic. Alabama stormed out to a 21-0 lead on the visiting Owls in the first quarter and now leads 31-0 at the break.

Blake Sims got off to a good start by completing his first five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. At the half Sims has completed eight of nine passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama is also getting Jacob Coker some playing time and a chance to lead the offense. Coker has not been quite as accurate but has made some nice throws as well, including a short touchdown pass to Jalston Fowler in the second quarter and a late deep pass down the left sideline to receiver Amari Cooper, who leads all players with 156 receiving yards.

Alabama is easily on its way to 2-0, and it may just be a matter of whether or not the Crimson Tide complete a shutout at this point. Alabama will have plenty of time to give everybody some playing time in the second half. This game was over when it was scheduled.

Five-star Alabama athlete Bo Scarbrough will start career at tailback

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In recruiting, the ‘athlete’ tag is given to a player for one of two reasons: He either has the athletic potential to excel at any number of positions, or he doesn’t really seem to have a true position and evaluators call him an athlete because they don’t know where he’ll end up.

Less than a week after signing his letter of intent with Alabama, five-star athlete Bo Scarbrough already has his position. He’s going to be a tailback in the Crimson Tide offense, according to head coach Nick Saban. But make no mistake, he won’t just be a grind-it-out type of back.

“We think Bo is a multi-talented guy but we look at him as a running back first,” Saban told Al.com. “He has really a diverse skill level for a big guy, he’s a physical guy. He has really good running ability but he also has great receiving skills. He’s actually played as much wide receiver as he has running back.”

However, Saban wants to avoid the temptation to play him at any other spot.

“As a running back, we can use him in those kind of roles and if he can learn and be ready to help us, I think that because of the kind of player he is, maybe he will be able to contribute in other ways as a player besides running back,” Saban said. “That’s how we would use him as a running back, not playing him at another position.”

If there’s any drawback to this move, it’s that Alabama’s backfield is ridiculously crowded with depth. Not only is TJ Yeldon back for at least one more season, there’s also the quickly-developing Derrick Henry, plus Kenyan Drake, Jalston Fowler, Altee Tenpenny, Dee Hart and Tyren Jones.

But at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, Scarbrough — ranked the 16th-best player in the country by Rivals.com — has the potential to be scary good. His size-speed combination is rare. Here’s a look at his highlight reel. It won’t be the last highlight you’ll see from him.

Photo: Rivals.com.

Alabama wakes up, but Auburn’s Nick Marshall keeps Iron Bowl close at half

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Auburn had their chance to take control of this year’s Iron Bowl early, but as many opponents have found out this season it is difficult to keep Alabama down for very long. Alabama was largely ineffective on offense in the first quarter, but the top-ranked team in the country holds a 21-14 advantage at the half.

Auburn’s dynamic quarterback Nick Marshall tore through Alabama’s defense midway through the first quarter, weaving and dashing for a 45-yard touchdown run against the SEC’s top rushing defense. Alabama then scored 21 straight points in the second quarter, starting with AJ McCarron completing a short pass to Jalston Fowler early in the second quarter to tie the game to finish off a 67-yard drive over 11 plays. A few minutes later McCarron again struck for a touchdown pass, this time to Kevin Norwood from the 20-yard line. T.J. Yeldon pushed a third touchdown up through a goal line pile after a video replay overturned a dazzling touchdown run down the left sideline by Amari Cooper.

Just as it seemed Alabama was going to be in full control after establishing a dominating 21-7 lead, Auburn finally got their running back back on track in the second quarter with a late touchdown. Tre Mason rushed for 64 yards on four quick plays to start the drive and Marshall looked to have a touchdown run from 15 yards out but a video review overruled the original call and placed the football on the one-yard line. Mason punched it in from the goal line to finish off the drive.

The winner of this game will advance to the SEC Championship Game next week in Atlanta. The winner also remains in the hunt for a BCS Championship Game appearance. This should be a dandy of a second half coming our way.

Alabama survives roller coaster ride with Texas A&M, 49-42

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Texas A&M started on a high note but hit the high C just a tad early against the top-ranked Alabama. Alabama calmed down and took firm control on the road of one of the most anticipated games of the season, but had to hang on for a 49-42 victory. They certainly had to breathe a sigh of relief after this one.

Alabama showed the poise of a champion, which should be expected when Nick Saban is the head coach and AJ McCarron is the quarterback. Down 14-0 after two offensive drives by Texas A&M, McCarron and Alabama went to work to claw back in to the game and they did so masterfully. Alabama scored four touchdowns before halftime and they did so only entering the red zone once. McCarron connected on big touchdown plays with Kevin Norwood (22 yards), DeAndrew White (44 yards) and Kenny Bell (51 yards) and T.J. Yeldon punched one in from the goal line on the only red zone opportunity for Alabama in the first half. Alabama had taken full control of the game, with the defense doing their part to not allow Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel from going off. Manziel had his moments that baffle the eyes, but he also had his negative moments. Manziel threw one interception in the end zone and had another returned by Vinnie Sunseri for a touchdown early in the third quarter (GIF via SB Nation). Sunseri’s pick-six gave Alabama a 35-14 lead.

Texas A&M did put up a fight in the fourth quarter to make things somewhat interesting. The defense forced a fumble by Yeldon in a goal line stand and boy did the Aggies capitalize. Manziel dropped back and unloaded a deep pass down the left side of the field to Mike Evans, who separated from his defender and dashed down field for a 95-yard touchdown to bring the Aggies within one score, down 42-35.

Showing the composure of a proven winner, Alabama stormed right back down field on their ensuing possession. Alabama marched right down to the five yard line. After a timeout, Alabama went to a play-action pass and McCarron completed a pass to Jalston Fowler for the score. It was just the second catch of the year for Fowler and it put Alabama up two scores with just under two and a half minutes to play. Texas A&M did manage one more late touchdown to make it a seven-point game, but Alabama recovered the ensuing onside kick to cement the hard-fought victory.

Now the question becomes who out there can beat Alabama? The Tide have shown some cracks in their first two games but are now 2-0 and remain the team to beat. Do we now look ahead to November 9 when LSU visits Alabama, or is there another team on Alabama’s schedule capable of pulling the upset? If it was not Texas A&M, who could it be?

Former five-star ‘Bama RB moves to corner… for now

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A five-star member of Alabama’s 2011 recruiting class, Dee Hart was expected to be the latest in a string of very productive Tide running backs.

In July of 2011, Hart suffered a torn ACL that forced him to miss his true freshman season.  After rehabbing that injury, Hart tore the ACL in the same knee during an October win over Ole Miss last year and, obviously, missed the remainder of the season.  While Hart is returning yet again from injury, he’ll be doing so on the other side of the ball.

The two-time defending national champions opened spring practice Saturday afternoon, and Hart was working in the secondary as a cornerback in a black, no-contact jersey.  Head coach Nick Saban, however, stressed that just because players are working at a different position this spring, Hart included, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the moves will be permanent.

“We’re looking to see if any of those guys can help us, and if this would be a better circumstance for how much they would be able to contribute to our team,” Saban said in explaining a handful of position switches.

The Tide is absolutely loaded at the running back position, with second-leading rusher T.J. Yeldon, one of two UA backs with over 1,000 yards last season, returning as well as four RBs in this year’s recruiting class added to a stable of four- and five-star players at the position.  The combination of that depth and Hart’s recent injury history would make switching to the secondary on a permanent basis sensible on several levels.

Hart, though, isn’t the only player making a secondary move.  Cyrus Jones and Christion Jones, wide receivers in 2012, were working with the defensive backs during the first of 15 spring practice sessions.

“I’ve been encouraged by all those guys. They’re all really athletic,” the coach said of the three skill-position players. “They’ve all played defensive back before, so it’s not like they’re lost. But I don’t think there’s any way that all those guys are going to end up on defense. Maybe one. Maybe two, if they both have roles.”

For the most part, and likely to Saban’s liking, the Tide’s first spring practice of the year was an uneventful one.  Here, though, are a few notes and one quote from the Tide’s return to the practice field.

— A total of nine early enrollees took part in the spring practice: quarterback Cooper Bateman, junior college offensive lineman Leon Brown, quarterback Luke Del Rio, wide receiver Raheem Falkins, running back Derrick Henry, offensive lineman Brandon Hill, tight end O.J. Howard, quarterback Parker McLeod and defensive back Jai Miller.

— Bateman, Del Rio and McLeod, incidentally, were three of the eight quarterbacks — yes, eight — who are currently on the roster and received reps.  In addition to those two as well as starter AJ McCarron and backup Blake SimsAlec MorrisPhillip Ely and walk-on Edward Aldag also received some semblance of work.

— Ely had reportedly been considering a transfer earlier this offseason, so his presence served as somewhat of a mild surprise.  Depending on how things shake out over the next five weeks, though, Ely could still look to move on to a program less congested at the quarterback position.

— From the Anniston Star: “During a couple of drills, McCarron was able to throw to someone he said he wanted to play alongside — his brother, tight end Corey McCarron, a rising sophomore.”

— As noted in UA’s release, secondary coach Greg Brown, assistant head coach and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and wide receivers coach Billy Napier getting their first on-field look at the 2013 Crimson Tide squad.  All of those assistants are in their first months on the job after three of Saban’s assistants left this offseason for better jobs title-wise.

— Wide receiver DeAndrew White (knee), running back Jalston Fowler (knee) and linebacker C.J. Mosley were among those wearing the black, no-contact jersey.  There was no word on the specific nature of Mosley’s injury.  (Writer’s note: Mosley underwent offseason shoulder surgery, hence the no-contact jersey.)

— Quasi-starting linebacker Xzavier Dickson was in the mix along the defensive line.  Again, the move is not necessarily a permanent one.  Dickson started six of the 13 games in which he played at LB last year.

— It was noted by al.com that “WR Kenny Bell doesn’t look like someone who broke his leg four months ago.”

— For those who keep track of this sort of thing, the Tide officially returns six starters on offense and seven on defense.  Starting punter Cody Mandell returns as well.

— Quotable, from Saban via the school’s sports information department:

“The main objective to me for spring practice is to focus on player improvement. Whether it is what a player needs to be able to do, the technique of how he should do it and to have an understanding conceptually of why it is important to do it that way.

“In the spring you don’t have game plans. You don’t have to change what you are doing and it is an opportunity for everyone to know our offense, our defense and our special teams – and to understand what is expected of them. I think it is also a time that a player needs to learn how to practice.”