- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Depending on which way you look at it, Alabama's scrimmage on Saturday was either good or bad for the future of the football team. Good because the offense scored 11 touchdowns and didn't cough the ball up once, and bad because the defense failed to make many stops and didn't generate a single turnover.
Ah, the joy of spring football. When you play against yourself no one really wins. The players simply get to hit one another, and that's a pleasant enough experience.
"Defensively, I guess it’s good and bad news," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We didn’t create any turnovers but the good news is we didn’t turn it over on offense, so that’s probably a good thing. But we practiced a lot of different situations out there, which is great exposure for our players."
Saturday marked the 12th practice and second scrimmage of the spring for the Crimson Tide. The next scrimmage will be the last when the doors to Bryant-Denny Stadium are swung open on April 20 for A-Day.
And even then, the result of the game-like practice will be the same: either the offense will look spectacular and the defense horrendous, or vice versa.
But for one day at least, the mood seemed to be the latter. Saban praised quarterback AJ McCarron and the receiving corps while questioning the ability of the secondary, specifically the cornerbacks. With Dee Milliner gone and John Fulton out for the spring with a turf toe injury, the unit has been considerably thinned out. So much so that Saban began spring camp by moving running back Dee Hart and wide receivers Christion Jones and Cyrus Jones there as an experiment meant to add some depth.
"We gave up too many big plays, I think," Saban said. Chris Black and Amari Cooper combined for 221 yards and four touchdowns on 16 receptions while McCarron was nearly perfect, completing 23 of 38 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns. "We actually made some improvement in some areas, and I think that's a work in progress. Everybody at that position needs to continue to improve and we've just got to play a little smarter."
Saban singled out Deion Belue, who had five tackles and a sack during the scrimmage, and Geno Smith as some of the cornerbacks who have made improvements from a season ago, but noted that those behind them need to step up as well.
Offensively, Saban said he was pleased with the play of redshirt freshman Alec Morris at quarterback, who threw his first touchdown pass in a scrimmage this spring. Blake Sims was the big winner from the first scrimmage a week ago, but this time was different.
"Last week we sort of picked four guys and said these guys were gonna get a little more repetitions than the other guys," Saban explained. "Today Alec actually got a few more reps, and Cooper [Bateman] as well as Blake and AJ. Those are the guys that got the most opportunities, even though everybody got to play. It's hard to get -- unless you just say OK we're gonna play these guys -- to get everybody enough reps without killing the rest of your team."
One player who might not be getting many more reps, though, is Xzavier Dickson. The rising junior who has spent time at outside linebacker and defensive end this spring, was held out of the scrimmage and may not be available the rest of spring because of a bruised knee.
"He was out there today, did individual, but we did not scrimmage him," Saban said. "But he has been playing outside linebacker and defensive end when it comes to nickel situations. Hopefully, maybe we’ll get him back (before A-Day), maybe we won’t. I don’t think we’ll take a lot of chances in pushing players at this point."
For further statistics from Saturday's scrimmage inside Bryant-Denny Stadium, visit The Tusk.
4dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough