Tide returns to work

Spencer White

After a productive Friday followed by two days of rest for Easter weekend, the Alabama football team returned to the Thomas-Drew Practice Facility Monday for a balmy practice session in the warmest temperatures of the spring.

“It’s starting to warm up,” starting quarterback Greg McElroy said. “I wanted to play some golf. It felt like golf weather.”

A round on the course was not in line for McElroy, who spent Monday afternoon, along with the rest of his teammates, working drills and fixing issues from the Friday scrimmage.

“I think one of the areas we need to continually try to improve on is third-down conversions,” McElroy said. “We were 5 percent short of our goal, which is inexcusable.”

Junior linebacker Dont’a Hightower got a chance to test out his reconstructed knee in a game situation for the first time since his injury against Arkansas in September.

Head coach Nick Saban had said after Friday’s scrimmage that Hightower had played every snap he was expected to, and the linebacker said he felt confident about his performance.

“I think I did fairly well,” Hightower said. “I think there’s still room for improvement … As far as my knee goes, I think I’m about 90 percent mobility.”

Hightower’s first hit in the scrimmage was against sophomore running back Demetrius Goode.

“I’m not trying to go after one of my teammates,” he said. “I didn’t get him the way I wanted to.”

With so many questions revolving around the defensive gaps, Hightower readily admitted that improvements needed to be made, but there is no lack of qualified talent to fill the positions in both the secondary and the defensive line.

“I don’t really think there’s that big of a difference,” Hightower said. “As far as the secondary goes, we’re still young and we’ve just got to communicate a lot better, but they’re pretty good.”

McElroy had similar sentiments.

“They’ve made some strides for sure,” McElroy said. “As far as coverage is concerned, they keep giving us fits.”

With the defense, Hightower said they knew what was expected of them because Alabama is always known to be one of the best in the nation.

“I feel like with this group, I think it’s not just the fact that we want it [to be the best], but that it’s expected of us too,” he said. “We use that as motivation. We might not be as big as we were last year, but we have a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism.”

As for freshman quarterback A.J. McCarron, McElroy said he was continuing to make improvements everyday.

“ I think he did a really good job out there,” he said. “I think he’s quick and decisive, and he got the ball out of his hands pretty well, so it was very encouraging for me to see him. He takes a lot of pride in his work.”

The Tide will return to practice today at 3:30 p.m.

Injury news

-Linebackers Nico Johnson and Tana Patrick joined center William Vlachos in black jerseys, with Johnson hobbling off the field during the media viewing period to ride the bike alongside Vlachos, who is still recovering from offseason foot surgery.