Testing

Crimson Tide seeking answers

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Jim McElwain isn't ready to designate Alabama's offensive playmakers. Kevin Steele won't pencil in the youngsters' spots on the defensive depth chart just yet.

Three days into fall practice, the Crimson Tide's offensive and defensive coordinators are content to let all that settle itself over the next four weeks. There's plenty to settle, too.

”We've got a lot of guys out there that are very athletic,“ Steele, the defensive boss, said Sunday at the team's media day before its first and only practice of the preseason open to the public. ”We've got a lot of guys that have the potential to fit into the pieces of the puzzle. But we've got a lot of practicing to do before we get to that test.

”Anything above that would really be putting the cart ahead of the horse.“

McElwain inherits an offense that lost several of its biggest threats at receiver.

His first step before naming names is getting the players to the point where they know their roles and what the offensive coaches are trying to accomplish.

”At that time, it's amazing how playmakers kind of emerge,“ the first-year offensive coordinator said in his first media availability since taking the job in January.

The most experienced candidates are Mike McCoy and Nikita Stover, but McElwain is hardly the only new face trying to make an impact on the Tide's offense.

The veterans are already singing the praises of a highly touted freshman class that coach Nick Saban has said will be a factor in how the team fares this season.

There's receiver Julio Jones. ”Everybody has improvement they can make, but he's strong, he's physical, he's tall, he can catch,“ cornerback Javier Arenas said. ”He's what everyone said he was. We've just got to wait until the season rolls around and watch him shine.“

Then there's linebackers Jerrell Harris, Don'ta Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. Prince Hall's three-game suspension to open the season leaves even more room for one or more of those three to step into quick playing time.

Steele said the young linebackers have the tools, but makes it clear he's still operating on early impressions.

”They look the part, they act the part, and they have shown on film in high school that they can play the part,“ he said. ”So far, in 48 hours, we haven't been disappointed.“

TIDE TALK: Saban said tailback/kick returner Jonathan Lowe was not invited to be one of the 105 players participating in fall camp and he isn't sure if he will rejoin the team when school starts. ”He didn't stay here this summer and didn't work out, but we had several other players who didn't do that. We just felt like these were the guys that we needed to invite to camp, so we just made a decision to move on,“ Saban said. ... He said receiver Darius Hanks has been held out of contact while recovering from shoulder surgery.

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