TUSCALOOSA _ There's always good and bad during the first scrimmage of fall, and Saturday was no exception for the University of Alabama football team.
Senior quarterback Greg McElroy completed 26 of 33 attempts for 360 yards in the pass-happy scrimmage with six touchdowns. Junior Julio Jones had seven receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns, while senior Earl Alexander might have made a bid for more playing time with five catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
"A lot of good things happened out there today, especially on offense," Nick Saban said after the two-hour session concluded at Bryant-Denny Stadium. "I think the offense is way ahead of the defense in terms of we have a lot of experienced players back, a lot of explosive players."
"On defense, I don't think we played very well at all," he said. "I don't think we played good gap control up front, we didn't tackle, we didn't finish, we didn't knock them back, we didn't have the eye of the tiger and be a good defensive team. That's all 11 of them."
Featuring the first real live tackling Alabama has had during fall camp, the scrimmage resulted in numerous injuries, especially in the secondary.
Also, junior running back Mark Ingram had the wind knocked out of him during a two-minute drill near the end, and freshman all-purpose play Blake Sims sprained a foot. When reporters were allowed to observe he was working with the running backs.
Ingram was said to be fine and walked off the field with teammates after practice ended and Saban described everyone else as day-to-day. Lester could be the exception, and will be out until cleared by the medical staff.
Lester was thought to be the frontrunner to start alongside Mark Barron but Saban said he was working on the second-unit when the injury occurred. Milliner and Menzie were getting a lot of work at the star position in obvious passing situations.
Among those stepping in during the scrimmage was walk-on Will Lowery. With Kendall Kelly still out due to heat-related problems, the only other scholarship players at safety are true freshmen Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry. Saban said he didn't know if the depth concerns would lead to another position change, but Brandon Gibson split time between safety and wide receiver during the spring.
"It's been one thing after another in the secondary in terms of changing personnel, starting in the spring, starting at the end of the bowl game," Saban said. "Losing guys, suspending guys, guys hurt now so we really can't get the continuity that we'd like."
One set of moves that occurred before the scrimmage was on second-unit offensive line, where true freshman Arie Kouandjio was at right tackle alongside guard Anthony Steen, while John Michael Boswell was at left guard next to tackle Alfred McCullough.
Saban also commented on the punters and kickers, but those statistics weren't released: "I think each punter got five or six live opportunities to punt. I think both guys had two or three good ones and both guys had two or three that probably could have been a little better. I think if you watched these guys punt in special teams before practice you would say, 'Man, where did you get those guys?' But they have to learn to take that to the game."
Sophomore kicker Jeremy Shelley has been more consistent in practice, but true freshman Cade Foster has the stronger leg.
But the coach talked mostly about the defense, which is replacing nine starters, and then sent players home to give them their first off day of camp.
"We didn't do a very good job of tackling today, anywhere on defense," Saban said. "We have a lot of work to do on that. We had a lot of mental errors. We played immature on defense."
He later elaborated.
"I don't think that we had enough guys show the maturity to be able to overcome adverse circumstances and play with the kind of intensity and focus that you need to in difficult circumstances. I told the team afterward, we went inside Wednesday because it was so hot, we went in Friday because it was very hot, and we had so much better energy and body language, mental intensity and practiced so much better.
"As soon as we get back out here it's like 'Whoa is me.' Like 'Wow, this is really something.' We're going to have to play a game, maybe not this hot, but something that's going to difficult. We would like to be able to have the mental toughness that would make that an advantage for us, not a disadvantage.
"That's maturity and I think that's the biggest thing about this team, we have a lot of young players, especially on defense, and they need to grow up and they need to mature as football players and competitors."
The temperature was 91 degrees at the start of the scrimmage with a heat index of 102.
Scrimmage statistics *Stats include 11-on-11, situational drills, red area, goalline, 2-minute PASSING LEADERS Greg McElroy - 26 for 33, 360 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT A.J. McCarron - 21 for 26, 241 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INT Phillip Sims - 5 for 10, 97 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT