Football looking to grow and gain experience in A-Day 2022 game

It’s been 94 days since the Alabama Crimson Tide below in the College Football National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Georgia Bulldogs beat Alabama for the first time since 2007 and won their first national championship title since 1980.

Now that the tears and dust have settled, the Crimson Tides are revving the engines. As always, it starts with the annual A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. One team wears crimson, the other white, and quarterbacks wear black to keep defensive players out.

From year to year, the results of the A-Day are random. Some players who show up turn out to be non-factors, and some future stars don’t see the pitch.

In last year’s game, wide receivers Agiye Hall and Traeshon Holden both played. Hall appeared in three games in 2021 and has since been traded. Holden had less than 250 yards last season. Quarterback Bryce Young didn’t look spectacular in the 2021 A-Day game but ended up winning the Heisman Trophy later that year.

“I think the spring ball is when you’re trying to grow your team,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “I think the most important thing is to see the experience and growth of the players involved in the spring game. It doesn’t really matter. It’s just part of the process.

Young will see playing time on Saturday, but there is excitement for who comes behind him. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Milroe opened many eyes during spring training. He’s the definition of a dual-threat quarterback, clocking in as one of the fastest guys on the team. Saban said Milroe is “doing some really good things”.

Another name to remember is true freshman quarterback Ty Simpson, who is the No. 3 quarterback for the Class of 2022 from Martin, Tennessee.

“He’s really conscientious, he’s really trying to learn, but he just needs to keep getting more and more opportunities in training so he can get the confidence he needs to be able to go there- down and play,” Saban said. “I’m encouraged by the progress these two guys are making.”

The offense will also have two new faces, both from Georgia state schools. Wide receiver Jermaine Burton and running back Jahmyr Gibbs were traded from Georgia and Georgia Tech, respectively.

Burton caught eight touchdowns for the Bulldogs over the past two years before coming to Tuscaloosa. Gibbs was the bright spot on a struggling Yellow Jackets team, compiling 1,974 scrimmage yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons in Atlanta.

Saban said Burton had “a very good spring” and had been “very productive”.

Like many Alabama fans, Saban is concerned about other players around Burton. A talented but young group will try to make up for the losses of John Metchie III and Jameson Williams, both of whom are NFL draft picks slated for later this month.

“We need for everyone else [other than Burton] to play with a bit more consistency,” Saban said. “[Burton] was a good addition for us, and hopefully we can continue to improve around him.

Unlike the wide receiver position, Alabama’s defense has experience from top to bottom. Six of the 11 starters who will line up on defense are seniors. Safety Jordan Battle and linebacker Henry To’oTo’o will remain at the Capstone to continue unfinished business.

Linebacker Jaylen Moody, who saw limited time at Alabama, returned to the Crimson Tide for his senior season after putting his name in the transfer portal. Moody is expected to start alongside To’oto’o as Will’s linebacker.

“I really just came back because that’s where I want to be,” Moody said. “Going into my final year, I want to make an impact. Have the chance to see Brian [Robinson Jr.] and how he handled last season helped me stay on track. When my time comes, I can be ready for any situation. I have been here for four years now. I learned defense and I grew up. I spent a lot of time trying to follow the process. It’s time. Alabama made me the player and the man I am today. Sky is the limit.”

Saban plans to put the first offensive team and the second defensive team together, and the second offensive team with the first defensive team. This way, fans will be able to see the best of the best go head-to-head.

“I’ve done this A-Day thing 15 different ways, and this is the best way to do it,” Saban said. “The most experienced players play against the most experienced players.”

This will be the last look at the Crimson Tide until the September 3 opener against Utah State. Unlike 2021, the A-Day game is once again free to the public. Thousands of Crimson Tide fans who don’t always see their favorite team play will head to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, April 16, to catch a college football practice.

“One of the things that helped this thing take off was the first A-Day game,” Saban said. “For us to have a big crowd on Saturday sends a huge message. I know it’s a holiday weekend. Sorry, the calendar worked that way. Players love to play for you, so we’d appreciate everyone showing up and supporting the team.

Kickoff is at 2:00 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

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