Wilson throws 2 TDs, 2 INTs in A-Day game; Stover held without a catch
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
TUSCALOOSA – Although Hartselle's Nikita Stover didn't get on the stats sheet at Saturday's A-Day game, there is still plenty to make local Alabama fans excited about the upcoming season.
Quarterback John Parker Wilson had flashes of brilliance, throwing two touchdowns to D.J. Hall.
Hall, a junior wide receiver who will need to fill the void until Tyrone Prothro returns from injury, had a standout performance. He finished with 136 yards on seven catches.
His second touchdown was especially impressive. Hall's pass from Wilson was underthrown, but the receiver made an adjustment and made the catch in traffic. He was able to break away from the defense after making the catch, giving the White team a 50-yard touchdown that put the team of first-stringers up 17-3 with 22 seconds left in the first half.
It was the kind of clutch play that could pay dividends for Alabama during a close regular season game.
"I was running downfield and John Parker (Wilson) stepped up because he was getting blitzed," Hall said of the touchdown. "He threw it short and I came back to the ball. (Defensive back) Simeon (Castille) thought I was still running when I came back. I didn't see anyone across the field. Then I got a couple of great blocks and just sprang it."
Hall and the White team won the game 17-3, but the scrimmage was more about getting in game-situation work for an Alabama team that will be young next season, especially on defense where the Tide is losing seven players from last year's standout unit.
Castille and Austin High grad Juwan Simpson led the defensive players with eight tackles each, and Decatur High grad Sam Burnthall had an interception in the closing minutes of the game.
Wilson, who has the unenviable task of replacing three-year starter Brodie Croyle, finished the day 21-for-31 passing for 244 yards, but also threw two interceptions. With backup Marc Guillon injured, sophomore Jimmy Barnes got the start for the Crimson team, finishing 12-of-22 with two interceptions.
Crimson Tide coach Mike Shula was a little concerned with the number of mistakes his quarterbacks made, but overall was happy with the team's performance.
"I told John Parker afterwards that those two interceptions could be costly if this were an actual game," he said. "Our execution was good at times, and not good at times. Overall I was pleased with the way our younger guys handled the crowd today and kept their poise."
Another bright spot for Alabama fans was kicker Jamie Christensen, who was 2-for-2 including one from 51 yards out. Christensen won several games last season with last-minute field goals and does not appear to have lost any accuracy or power – his 51-yarder cleared the crossbar with room to spare.
The running game was solid, though not exceptional. Ken Darby, who shunned the NFL draft to return to the Tide for his senior season, finished with 26 yards on seven carries. Sophomore Jimmy Johns, who appears to be penciled into the backup spot, had 10 carries for 34 yards.
But this spring game was for the fans, and as a result, most of the plays were passes. In fact, one lucky fan even got to call a play in the second half – a flea flicker where Johns, who played quarterback in high school, was supposed to pass the ball back to Wilson. The pass was intercepted.
Stover had a tough day, finishing with no receptions. Two passes intended for him were picked off, including one that could have been a touchdown but was intercepted by Burnthall.
The other interception was a lob pass thrown into double coverage. Stover tried to knock the throw down, but it was picked off by Ryan Kilpatrick. Stover saw numerous minutes of game time with the first unit of the Crimson team, with Barnes under center.
"He's improved," Shula said of Stover. "I don't think he's improved as much as we would have thought, but part of that is the injury (from earlier in the spring).
"He's going to be much further ahead now, though, than if he'd have come in here in July or August. We definitely need him and some other guys to step up and give us depth at the wide receiver position. We're still going to find out how he can contribute."