Sometimes Alabama football seems to be awash in injuries, with Nick Saban listing casualties (of varying degree, to be fair) like he is calling roll in an infirmary. Whether research would show that UA actually has more injuries than anyone else isn’t clear — that’s a lot of research, and some schools are more open about who is hurt and who is not than other schools. (Saban is a model of transparency, to the extent that privacy laws allow, when it comes to medical matters.)
One wonders if the programs in college football’s top tier — Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and a few others — have more injuries, or just more injury awareness. The latter is possible, for a couple of reasons. First, those programs — and it’s been this way at Alabama for a decade now — simply have far greater media exposure than others, both from the number of outlets that cover the football team and in the attention that they attract from the big media outlets. ESPN, in one incarnation or another, was in Tuscaloosa three times last week, doing interviews, filming segments, dispatching digital print reporters or on-air personalities like Holly Rowe and Maria Taylor. That exposure raises the profile and I’m guessing it isn’t the case in Starkville or New Brunswick.
Semi-related to that is the fact that at Alabama (and the others mentioned) even the younger players or backups are fairly famous from the recruiting process. From one perspective, Alabama freshman Trey Sanders — scheduled for foot surgery soon, according to Saban — could be accurately described, in a monotone, as a “third-string running back.” On the other hand, he is also “the No. 1 running back recruit in the nation last year.” Third, Alabama fans are among those 24-hour-a-day fanatics for whom every morsel matters. Other programs do have injuries, after all — Pitt lost its best defensive lineman last week, and Oklahoma lost its most experienced defensive back.
However, with all that said, Alabama does seem to have angered some curse-casting entity and it does have an effect. Saban went on a mini-rant about it last year, peeved at the perception that the Crimson Tide could simply manufacture (through a process that probably doesn’t need to be aired again at the moment) replacement players. Yes, Alabama recruits well.
Yes, Alabama has roster depth that most other programs can’t approach. But modern-day football, which can clip six or seven NFL early entrants at the top of the experience ladder annually, already causes rosters to skew a bit younger than they once did. Add in injuries, and suddenly you’ve got positions that have almost no experience at all. Saban mentioned Saturday that the “first” defense on Saturday — without Dylan Moses or Josh McMillan, LaBryan Rayor DJ Dale (a precocious freshman himself) — was remarkably green. That affects practice. If the first defense is thin, what about the No. 2 defense that the first offense is scrimmaging? The ripple effect goes in all directions before a single game has been played.
It’s not time to push the panic button yet. Some players who sat out on Saturday will still be available in time to prepare for the Duke game. Assuming the worst, a popular Tuscaloosa pastime, may not be necessary. But it’s also not fair to assume that Saban can wave a magic wand and heal every injury — or turn every freshman into a game-tested junior overnight.
On Saturdays this fall when the timing of the passing game is just a little bit off, Tua Tagovailoa takes one too many hits or the Crimson Tide needs to salt away a victory, the running game will take center stage.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. --Nick Saban provided updates on several injured players after Alabama’s first scrimmage of the preseason camp, which was held Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“We had some guys that didn’t go today,” Saban said. “Dylan (Moses), we just held him out. He’ll probably be back on Monday. No big deal with him. DJ Dale has a sprained knee. He’ll probably be back probably in a week or so. Probably the guy that is most concerning that they have to do some research on is Joshua McMillon today with a potential knee injury. So, we’ll have to see what that is.
“Trey Sanders did not scrimmage today because he has a foot injury that will require surgery, so he will be out indefinitely. But I think those are the major guys. … Of course, Miller Forristall is starting to work. We did not scrimmage him today, but he is doing some things in practice. And we expect LaBryan Ray to return to practice and start doing some of those things here in the very near future.
“It’s important that we get some of those guys healthy so that we can get them enough work that they can get ready to play in the first game. But we’ve got a lot of young guys playing out there because we have, probably, 4-5 guys in the front seven that weren’t out there today. That means the twos are the ones, that means the twos are the threes. So, it’s an opportunity for a lot of those guys to get a lot of work.”
Saban also said freshman cornerback Brandon Turnage was able to scrimmage after missing Friday’s fall practice with a twisted ankle. Redshirt senior offensive lineman Matt Womack is day-to-day, Saban said, and did not scrimmage. According to a source, Womack took a shot to the head Thursday but is not expected to miss much more practice time because of the setback.
McMillon could be a significant blow because the redshirt senior has been the Will linebacker with the first-team defense, opposite Moses, since the spring. He has waited four years for this opportunity, and based on Saban’s post-scrimmage comments, his injury could be significant.
Alabama linebackers Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon (Photo: Denon McMillan, 247Sports)
“I feel my growth was a player went everywhere,” McMillon said this week. “I just wanted to get bigger, faster and stronger. Just being here they coach me up on values, being a better man, being a good person on and off the field. Just being a better leader, being a better team person.”
Moses will be the leader of the Crimson Tide defense at Mike linebacker as a junior this fall, but he has watched individual drills from afar the last two days. As a sophomore in 2018, the former 5-star recruit led UA’s defense in tackles with 86 and contributed 10.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Dale has missed the last three practices with his injury. Dating back to the second half of spring practice, the early enrollee has been working at defensive tackle with the first-team defense in between Raekwon Davis and Ray. However, Ray has yet to be on the field in fall camp and was spotted in street clothes before Saturday’s scrimmage. He is dealing with an ankle injury.
Sanders had been the fourth running back in drills and was splitting third-team reps with Jerome Ford, but he arrived at the stadium with the team buses on Saturday on crutches and with a walking boot on his left foot. A former 5-star recruit during the 2019 cycle, he was the No. 6 overall prospect and No. 1 running back, according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite.
Forristall (foot) returned to practice five days ago, although he was moving gingerly, and wore full pads for the first time Saturday at the front of the tight end line. The redshirt junior will be the team’s No. 1 tight end once he returns to full health, which appears to be coming sooner than later.
Alabama will have the day off Sunday, Aug. 11, and will return to practice Monday at 7:30 p.m. CT.