TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — This time, it was closer to an average Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium — besides maybe the 101,000 empty seats.
Alabama’s second scrimmage of the preseason was designed to mimic a more game-like setting than the previous week’s highly situational run-through.
And on the day the Crimson Tide topped the preseason Associated Press poll, coach Nick Saban came away feeling better about the improvement shown in a week’s time.
“We tested the running game a little bit more today, probably as much to see if we could stop it on defense as to see if we could run it on offense,” said Saban of the scrimmage closed to the public and reporters.
The first 50 plays, Saban said, were run just as if it were a game including substitutions, kicking with the both first teams playing against both second teams. There were fewer 2-minute drills and third-down situations in this scrimmage as opposed to the first.
Running backs took twice as many carries in the second go-round (56) while the quarterbacks threw 10 fewer passes (59), according to statistics provided by UA media relations.
No. 3 running back Eddie Lacy led all rushers with 61 yards on 15 carries followed by Mark Ingram (12 carries, 46 yards) and true freshman Corey Grant (11 for 41 yards). Second-string back Trent Richardson ran just six times for 20 yards after going down with a bruised shoulder, Saban said.
The only other injury reported was a thigh bruise suffered by nose tackle Josh Chapman. Neither, Saban said, should be major issues moving forward.
In the passing game, McElroy went 10-for-18 for 134 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Neither misfire, Saban said, were bad throws since one was tipped and the other came on the final play of the day in a rushed situation. The returning starter worked with the first team for about two-thirds of the afternoon while backup AJ McCarron stepped in for the other portion. The redshirt freshman connected on 11 of 23 attempts for 110 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
“Since AJ has never played with the 1s, I think he needs to be able to play with those guys too in case that circumstance comes up in the future,” Saban said.
Players were not made available to reporters afterward.
Tight end Brad Smelley was the top target for the quarterbacks as the Tuscaloosa product caught five passes for 71 yards and a touchdown followed by Julio Jones’ four catches and 56 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Dont’a Hightower made the biggest impact on the stat sheet. The sophomore with a surgically rebuilt knee made eight tackles (two for losses), had one sack and broke up one pass. Dre Kirkpatrick and Robert Lester had the two interceptions.
Cornerback DeQuan Menzie was back on the field after suffering a minor injury in last week’s scrimmage to add depth to the thin secondary. The JUCO transfer from Carver High did not make the stat sheet, but Saban mentioned his improvement.
“He held up OK in the scrimmage today,” Saban said. “Hopefully, we can keep building on him.”
Menzie is expected to play a big role in filling the void left by departed cornerbacks Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson.
Michael Casagrande is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org