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Runningbacks Dominate A-Day Game in Kalen DeBoer's Debut

Jam Miller carries the ball at Alabama's A-Day.
© Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's A-Day Game officially kicked off the Kalen DeBoer era at Alabama in front of more than 72,000 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. With the new coaching staff also comes a new format for the annual spring game.

Under former coach Nick Saban, Alabama's first-team offense would be teamed up with the second-team defense while the second-team offense was teamed up with the first-team defense, but under DeBoer, the entire offense was pitted against the entire defense. The White team, consisting of the offense, would end the day victorious behind a stellar performance from their running backs.

Alabama A-day Game Summary

With an offensive (White) versus defensive (Crimson) format to the A-Day Game, the scoring format was different than that of the last 17 years. For the offensive team, scoring was the same as if this was an actual game, with a touchdown counting for 6 points, extra points 1 point and 3 points for field goals. For the defensive team, scoring consisted of a three-and-out counting for 3 points, 7 points for a takeaway, 2 points for a missed field goal, 2 points for a punt and 4-6 points for a fourth-down stop, depending on where the turnover on downs occurred on the field.

Alabama's offense started off the day strong, scoring touchdowns on their first three drives. All three drives were for 75 yards, and each ended with a different running back in the endzone. First to score was sophomore Justice Haynes, followed by sophomore Richard Young and junior Jam Miller to put the White team up by 21. After a field goal by senior Reid Schuback and another touchdown by Miller, the White team would find themselves up 31-0. The offense would stall and only score a field goal the rest of the game while the defense would force 8 three-and-outs, a missed field goal and a punt for a final score of White 34-Crimson 28.

While the running game looked to be the strength of the offense, the passing game had its moments as well. Wide receiver Germie Bernard, a transfer from Washington, had a big day hauling in 3 catches for 127 yards, including a 52-yard pass from quarterback Jalen Milroe. Milroe made a couple of good passes, throwing for 100 yards, but only completed 3-of-9 of his pass attempts. Ty Simpson looked more consistent as a quarterback, going 7-of-12 for 102 yards. The interior of the offensive line also had a good day providing running lanes for the running backs, while the tackles were inconsistent with their pass protection.

DeBoer commented at the half, that the defense had been "vanilla" but that changed in the second half. Defensive coordinator Kane Womack got more aggressive with his play calling, and it showed as the defense dominated the second half of the scrimmage. Veterans like Malachi Moore made some big plays but what was really promising was the performance of the second-team defense. With the lack of depth at many positions on the defensive side, it was important to see inexperienced players like freshmen linebacker Justin Okoronkwo and defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick Jr. make big plays on the field.

Turning Point

The Crimson team really started to turn things around in the second half after making the adjustment to play more aggressively as opposed to just playing in their base formation like they did all first half. While the Crimson team dominated the second half, it still wasn't enough to complete the comeback after being down by 31 points early in the game. Even though it didn't change the outcome as far as who won the game, the defensive adjustments at the half definitely changed the feel and pace of the game.

Play of the Game

Late in the first half, Miller gashed the defense for a 48-yard run that would set the White team for a touchdown play that would ultimately put this game out of reach for the Crimson team. Miller had an exceptional day and this run put an exclamation point on that performance.

Most Valuable Players

White Team MVP: Running Back Jam Miller (8 attempts for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns)

Alabama RB breaks a run

Crimson Team MVP: Linebacker Justin Okoronkwo (11 total tackles, including 1 tackle for loss)

Justin Okoronkwo

Insights from A-Day

As far as spring games go, DeBoer's first A-Day was a huge success. Alabama made it through the day without suffering any injuries and that is always a huge plus. The three-headed monster that is Miller, Justice Haynes and Richard Young looked like they could play as well or better than any backfield in the country.

Germie Bernard looks like he could be the next great wide receiver for the Crimson Tide with his elite speed and playmaking ability. There weren't a lot of procedural penalties and everyone seemed to be on the same page play-wise, meaning the adjustment to the new schemes seems to be going well. The second-team defense played better than expected with multiple underclassmen showing their potential to be major contributors this coming season.

With depth still an issue at multiple positions, look for Alabama to shop for offensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks in the transfer portal. There is only so much that can be derived from a spring game but the DeBoer era at Alabama is off to a good start.


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