TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As with any intrasquad scrimmage, there are two sides to the coin. On the one hand, the offense can look spectacular and the defense maligned. Saturday was the opposite, as more than 78,000 fans watched Alabama's defense dominate, forcing a whopping six interceptions and four fumbles.
And while coach Nick Saban argued that the turnovers were a result of poor offensive execution, one must also tip the cap to a secondary, which began the game as arguably the biggest source of discontent. In fact, before kickoff, Saban was asked by a television reporter what one area concerned him most. The defensive backfield was his answer.
But Nick Perry and a host of other defensive backs answered the bell Saturday afternoon. Perry had two interceptions, and together as a defense the Crimson Tide held its quarterbacks to a paltry 102.8 quarterback rating, compared to the 174.3 rating it posted last season.
“We told each other before we broke into our separate teams that we might be on two different teams today, but we’re all one unit," said UA safety Vinnie Sunseri. "It’s different this year. We’re trying to make sure we fly around to the ball, create turnovers and make it hard for the quarterback."
On top of the interceptions, the defense had 10 pass breakups.
Sunseri said he and projected starting safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix looked at each other before the game and said they'd give it all they had.
"And that’s what we did," Sunseri said. "Try to make as many plays as we can against one of the best offenses in the nation in my opinion."
The big winner was Perry, who is fighting for the spot opposite Clinton-Dix at safety. Sunseri, Landon Collins, Jarrick Williams and others are in the fight for reps as well. Collins, a former five-star prospect, had an interception and a pass breakup as well. But Perry hoped what he did would push him through the offseason.
"I’m trying to get a little momentum going in the summer and fall camp," the rising senior said. "This is my last go-round so I’m trying to make the most of it.”
“We’re all just competing and having fun with it. Whatever happens happens. They’re going to play the best player but we’re still rooting each other on because either way, whoever’s on the field, they’re representing us as a team. We’re all competing and critiquing each other and making each other better.”
Playing both ways
Saban was emphatic that the Christion Jones experiment of playing defensive back would continue, but not in a way that he would be taken away from his duties as a wide receiver.
"I answered this question numerous times before and the answer is not going to change," he said. "Christion Jones has done a really good job on both sides of the ball. The object of what we did this spring is so that if we need the guy to play corner in the fall, he can play it. He'll know how to do it.
"We don't need to make that decision right now, and we're not going to make it. We're going to see if we can develop the players that we have so that he can be an explosive player on offense, which he is, which we'd like for him to do."
Jones said he won't be comfortable until "I'm starting both ways."
"I don't know how I did it, either," he said of playing corner. "It takes extra film work in this type of defense coach Saban's style. That was my goal, the first day we decided I was going to play cornerback. So I had to learn it with the mindset that I was going to be competitive, to try to get a job. Don't do it cause the coaches want you to, do it to earn a spot. That's what I've been doing. Extra film work always worked best."
Continued improvement up front
Once again, Saban expressed his joy with the progress of the offensive line. Replacing three of five starters has been difficult, but judging by the time quarterback AJ McCarron had to throw the football on Saturday, the task of rebuilding is ahead of schedule.
"The offensive line has done a really good job all spring," he said. "I think Anthony Steen and Cyrus Kouandjio have done a really good job from a leadership standpoint. Ryan Kelly has played well all spring long. He got a lot of experience last year, which I think was helpful to him. Arie (Kouandjio) had a really good spring. Austin Shepherd had a good spring. Leon Brown is a guy that has ability that he can give us depth. So can Kellen Williams.
"Those guys are still in competition for positions and rightfully so based on what they've been able to do. We need to continue to try to develop more players at that position. I'm pleased with the progress that that group has made."