TUSCALOOSA _ While last week was advantage offense, Saturday saw the defense step up when the University of Alabama held its second spring scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"The first defenses played a little better," Coach Nick Saban said. "Didn't give up a number of big plays. Tackling was better. I think we were more physical and affected the quarterback more."
Defensive end Marcell Dareus led the unit with 10 tackles, five sacks, one tackle for a loss and two passes broken up. Adding in last week's four sacks and eight tackles, he has nine sacks and 18 tackles for the spring.
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower was right behind him Saturday with eight tackles and two sacks, and linebacker Courtney Upshaw had three sacks. Despite that, Alabama's quarterbacks combined to complete 59 of 93 passes for 601 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
"I think they were a little more challenged today," Saban said. "All four quarterbacks played well."
Greg McElroy completed 17 of 27 passes for 156 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. He also had two interceptions, the first turnovers of spring.
After completing 75 percent of his passes last week (21-for-28), A.J. McCarron was 17-of-30 for 215 yards and three touchdowns. True freshman Phillip Sims took his first live action and completed 15 of 19 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown, while Star Jackson was 10-of-17 for 91 yards.
"I'm really pleased with the progress all of our quarterbacks have made," Saban said. "Greg has done a really good job all spring long, I'm very happy with his production.
"A.J. is very comfortable with the offense, very natural. I think one of the things that A.J. needs to continue to gain confidence in is the game management part of it. His physical ability, his ability to throw long, his decision making, all those things continue to develop."
Running back Mark Ingram (19 carries for 72 yards and one touchdown) and Jones (nine catches, 117 yards and two touchdowns) were among those singled out by the coach during his press conference, but the competition for third-string running back might result in split duties. While Eddie Lacy had 10 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown, Demetrius Goode had three receptions out of the backfield for 79 yards including a 16-yard touchdown.
Similar to last week tight end Preston Dial and wide receiver Kenny Bell caught their fair share of passes and walk-on tight end Hardie Buck again made the stat sheet with three catches for 34 yards.
"The big message from me is consistency and performance defines success," Saban said. "That's the message I had for the players. We sort of have days where one side of the ball or the other will do extremely well and then maybe not do as well the next day out. We have three opportunities to improve."
The Tide will practice Tuesday and Thursday in final preparation for Saturday's A-Day, which will be shown live on ESPN at 2 p.m..
Injury report No one had to leave the scrimmage due to an injury.
Wide receiver Michael Bowman wasn't wearing black, but didn't go through individual drills and appeared limited.
Riding exercise bikes and out for the scrimmage were offensive lineman William Vlachos (foot surgery), Chad Lindsay (knee sprain) and Russell Raines. Allen Skelton was filling in for Lindsay at center on the third unit, with Aaron Joiner at left guard.
Linebacker Tana Patrick made five tackles after sustaining a concussion during the first scrimmage.
"The technology that they have in that whole head-injury area is really great in terms of knowing whether a guy is okay or he isn't," Saban said.
Linebacker Nico Johnson (knee sprain), was in black, signaling no contact along with outside linebacker Milton Talbert (shoulder). Talbert and Vlachos will likely be held out of contact the rest of spring.
Tide-bits Terrence Cody was on hand for the scrimmage and at one point clowned around by jumping on an exercise bike. The former nose tackle appeared to be trimmer than last season and told reporters he was down to 346 pounds. Also on hand for the scrimmage were Lee Roy Jordan, Le'Ron McClain and Mike McCoy.
The second-unit guards lined up the same as Friday, with John Michael Boswell on the left side behind Chance Warmack, and Anthony Steen on the right side behind Barrett Jones. Kendall Kelly scrimmaged at safety, with Brandon Gibson with the receivers. Both have been learning safety this spring as a depth precaution. Gibson had 10 receptions for 74 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass from McCarron.
The coaching staff still hasn't decided on an A-Day format. Either the first units will face each other or the ones will play the twos. "The decision will be based on what helps our team develop the best," Saban said.
Saban said he was pleased with kicking units: "I'm encouraged by the progress that both kickers have made. We have recruited a punter for the fall, we have somebody else who we would like to get to come to school here so that we have competition at that position. The punting has been very inconsistent."
Scrimmage statistics Statistics include 11-on-11, situational drills, red area, goal-line, 2-minute
PASSING LEADERS Greg McElroy - 17 for 27, 156 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT A.J. McCarron - 17 for 30, 215 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT Phillip Sims - 15 for 19, 139 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT Star Jackson - 10 for 17, 91 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT