Players see newcomers, familiar faces at spring practice

Players+see+newcomers%2C+familiar+faces+at+spring+practice

Laura Owens

As the Alabama Crimson Tide football team had its second spring practice of 2011 Wednesday afternoon at Thomas-Drew Practice Facility, the returning defensive players were happy to see familiar faces around them.

“We come in and see most of the guys back, and we’re just ready to get this season off and rolling,” said linebacker Courtney Upshaw. “There’s a lot of chemistry there, a lot of guys who played last year, so we’re just ready to get the ball rolling.”

Along with the familiar faces, though, are the new faces that have joined the Tide. Alabama added three new coaches to the coaching staff with wide receivers coach Mike Groh, defensive line coach Chris Rumph and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

Defensive lineman Josh Chapman said Rumph is a great coach and is teaching the line a lot of new things.

“He’s intense,” Chapman said. “You have to be intense with the group we have, but that’s how some guys learn, by yelling, so he’s at it.”

Chapman said this was his first time adjusting to a new coach during his career, but that it wasn’t going to stop him from learning.

Wide receiver Marquis Maze said an adjustment for the wide receivers has been the loss of former receiver Julio Jones, who opted to leave early for the NFL draft.

“I feel like we have something to prove,” Maze said. “Me, [Darius] Hanks and [Brandon] Gibson are capable of filling the void. Julio will be well missed, but I feel like we’re capable of making plays for the offense, too.”

As far as filling the quarterback spot with senior Greg McElroy graduating, Maze said all the quarterbacks have been working hard.

“All of them are competing,” he said. “It’s only been two days of practice, so we really can’t tell who’s standing out the most, but I feel like those guys are capable of filling the void in that position.”

Chapman said one thing the defensive line is looking to work on for next season is its pass rush.

“When you hear that we can’t rush the pass, it’s not just on the linebackers, it’s on us,” he said. “It’s not good for the outside linebacker to have the most sacks on the team. It’s what we want to take pride in, the defensive line having the most sacks, having the most pressure. Affecting the quarterback is the main thing we want to do.”

Still coming back from injury is defensive back Mark Barron, who injured his pectoral muscle in the Auburn game last November. Though he’s wearing a black jersey in practice, head coach Nick Saban said he’s at no risk from the injury side and that hitting in practice isn’t far off for him.

“He’s doing great,” Saban said. “He did great in the off-season program. He’s got full range of motion, which was the biggest issue with this injury. I think that right now, to use that daily is the No. 1 thing we’re trying to get him to do.”

Alabama’s next practice on Friday will be the first time the team will don pads since the bowl game in January.

“That’s something I look forward to,” Chapman said. “Having jerseys on, you can’t really do much. When you start getting those pads on, you get to popping, that’s where the fun comes in.”