Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Defense holes focus of spring

After putting in a day of work before departing for spring break, the Alabama football team reconvened Monday with two spring practices to begin preparations for defending its BCS national title.

Returning starting quarterback Greg McElroy said he was pleased with the intensity at practice after the break.

“Usually coming back from spring break, it’s usually a pretty tough day,” McElroy said. “We just kind of picked up right where we left off.”

The Crimson Tide’s focus will likely center on replacing a plethora of defensive contributors lost from last season’s undefeated squad. Nine starters, including early NFL draftees Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson, are gone. The secondary is especially depleted with the loss of Jackson, All-American Javier Arenas, safety Justin Woodall and key contributor Marquis Johnson.

McElroy does not seem fazed by the loss in talent in the defensive backfield, though he admits the veterans carried a certain aura of confidence and knowledge that will be difficult to replace.

“Being the veterans they were, they were so savvy when it came to playing the game,” McElroy said. “But as far as talent’s concerned… [the new guys] are really making it difficult for us on offense. Obviously, Coach Saban is as good as there is when it comes to being a secondary coach, so he has those guys ready.”

One defensive player ready to retake a starring role will be upcoming junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower’s 2009 season ended after suffering torn knee ligaments against Arkansas, and the athlete was forced to watch the rest of the campaign from the sidelines on crutches.

With a remarkably fast return to action, just five months removed from his injury, Hightower’s intensity and enthusiasm to return to action are just a microcosm of a defensive roster looking to move up in the pecking order.

“You can see it during warm-ups and everything,” Hightower said. “The whole way through practice there’s not a down or a rep where one guy lets up. Everybody wants to play and it’s being showed.”

In fact, Hightower’s energy led to a bit of a scrum on the practice field during Monday’s work.

“We almost had a little altercation today,” Hightower said. “I was going after it pretty hard.”

Hightower and the rest of the Tide will continue practice today. All spring practices, with the exclusion of the A-Day scrimmage, are closed to the public.

Other Notes

-McElroy commented on finding himself in a near-forgotten position; that of a returning starter. McElroy only started one season at Carroll High School while backing up Chase Daniel and then sat for three at Alabama before leading the Tide to last year’s national title.

“I keep trying to remind myself this is the first year returning as a starter since my eighth grade season,” McElroy said.

-One of the more interesting subplots of the 2010 spring practices will be the progress of the Tide’s 11 early enrollees, including five-star defensive back DeMarcus Milliner and touted quarterback Phillip Sims. Sims looked sharp during route drills, throwing crisp spirals and displaying an early knack for timing that indicates a quickly budding rapport with Tide receivers.

“He’s a quick learner; a dedicated individual,” McElroy said. “Obviously he’s got great ability because Coach Saban thought very highly of him.”

-Returning starting center William Vlachos was in a black jersey peddling a back. Vlachos is recovering from an offseason foot injury.

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