News from the Tennessee Valley Sports
SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007

DJ Hall bobbles a pass as Kareem Jackson defends during Alabama’s A-Day Game. Hall finished with five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.
AP photo by Rob Carr
DJ Hall bobbles a pass as Kareem Jackson defends during Alabama’s A-Day Game. Hall finished with five catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Alabama A-Day Notebook

Tide honors Simpson

TUSCALOOSA — Austin High graduate Juwan Simpson’s hand and foot prints are literally a part of Alabama’s campus.

Before the A-Day Game, Simpson and former fullback Le’Ron McClain were honored at Denny Chimes as the newest inductees into Alabama’s walk of fame, which includes the hand and foot prints in cement of all CrimsonTide team captains.

Both were named team captains before last season’s Independence Bowl.

“It means so much,” said Simpson, a starter at linebacker. “It’s an honor and blessing and something you hear about growing up as a kid and something everyone strives to do, to be a captain. It means so much because you’re voted by your teammates.

“The coaches decide everything else but the teammates select the captain and that’s the most special thing about it. It’ll be something that’s remembered forever.”

Thompson anniversary

Juwan Simpson isn’t the first Decatur native to place his hand and foot prints into Alabama’s walk of fame.

That honor belongs to Decatur High graduate Wes Thompson, a team captain 50 years ago for the 1956 Alabama team along with Jim Cunningham. Thompson played on the line.

Thompson played football for H.L. “Shorty” Ogle at Decatur High. He later served Morgan County schools for 34 years, including stints as head coach at Decatur and WestMorgan.

Thompson, who died Oct. 31, 2005, was principal at Priceville, West Morgan and Falkville and served as Morgan County superintendent during 1982-90.

Gray nurses injuries

Alabama cornerback Eric Gray sat out A-Day with a hamstring injury.

The West Morgan High graduate has practiced with a black non-contact jersey recently. During the portion of practice that reporters were allowed to watch, he usually rode an exercise bike.

Gray has missed time since his redshirt year of 2003 with various hamstring problems.

Tide regulars from the 2006 squad who did not play were receiver Will Oakley and offensive lineman Chris Capps (shoulder).

Running back Glen Coffee and tight end Charles Hoke both injured their shoulders in the spring game, but head coachNick Saban said he did not think they were serious.

One of Gray’s prep teammates, Byron Walton, played on the defensive line for the White team and made one tackle.

Playing new positions

To the naked eye, Keith Saunders and Ezekial Knight might have looked like typical defensive ends for most of Saturday during Alabama’s A-Day Game.

However, they’re not defensive ends — in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 alignment, they’re outside linebackers, which allowed them some freedom to move around in ways they didn’t do as ends.

Knight had four tackles, while Saunders had three tackles with two sacks.

“They have to continue to improve,” Saban said. “They still make some mental errors, but we are pleased with the progress they’ve made.”

After the scrimmage ended, Knight was given the Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter award, and Saunders received the Billy Neighbors Defensive Lineman Award.

Nose tackle and former offensive lineman Brian Motley played on the first team. He had three tackles and made some solid plays.

“Motley has been a big surprise,” Saban said. “He was a third-team offensive lineman. We didn’t have enough defensive linemen and he becomes a starter and one of the most productive guys.”

Saban praises Johns

There were several sarcastic snickers when running back Jimmy Johns won the Jerry Duncan “I Like to Practice” Award.

Johns, who missed two spring practices with an academic issue, was thought to be one of Saban’s favorite whipping boys. After Saturday’s scrimmage, Saban made sure to dispel those rumors.

“He practices good all the time,” Saban said. “He didn’t practice because he didn’t go to class. They’re not related.”

Saban then smiled and said, “I knew that would get you.”

While there was some speculation that Johns would not work with the first-team offense Saturday, he did. Johns rushed for 26 yards on six carries for the White team, while Terry Grant had 47 yards on eight attempts.

Freshmen in the lineup

Imagine playing for a small crowd at your typical high school football stadium, then a few months later finding yourself staring into a sea of 92,138 Crimson Tide fans.

For running back Jamar Taylor and cornerback Kareem Jackson, that was their reality Saturday. Both enrolled at Alabama in time for the spring semester, which meant they went through spring drills.

Taylor played with the second-team offense finishing with 44 yards on 10 carries. Jackson, meanwhile, was on the first-team defense, playing mostly as the “dime” back. He finished with two tackles.

No red-zone woes

Wide receiver DJ Hall delivered a message about the team’s red-zone offense for next season.

“That was something we used to have problems with,” Hall said.

“Something tells me we’re not going to have problems with it anymore.”

Hall scored on a 17-yard strike from quarterback John Parker Wilson with 2:53 remaining in the second quarter.

The only time Alabama failed in the red zone was when the White team settled for a 28-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal, after it had first-and-10 at the Crimson team’s 12-yard line.

About that Tiffin guy

Tiffin didn’t miss Saturday. He nailed field goals of 28 and 46 yards, along with two extra points.

It was a far cry from Alabama’s 24-23 loss against Arkansas where Tiffin missed three field goals and an extra point.

Josh Cooper,
Daily Sports Writer

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