Defense, Kicking Need Improvement
Alabama had its first scrimmage of spring football practice Saturday, and Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said that the unit with 10 of 11 returning starters had some deficiencies.
"Even though there were good things on defense, I think the one glaring thing was we didn't tackle as well as we needed to," Saban said following the work at Bryant-Denny Stadium. "We didn't tackle, we didn't clean up. When you get people around the ball, running to the ball, we need to be the kind of aggressive defense we've been in the past."
Although Saban didn't point out any defensive players, he noted, "It will be interesting to see how some of the newcomers did defensively. It's a little harder to tell sometimes with the front seven guys. It's easy to see in the secondary."
One of those young guys was high statistically.
True freshman linebacker Trey DePriest, who entered The University in January, had five tackles, including one tackle for loss.
C.J. Mosley led the defensive statistics with six and had an interception. Fellow inside linebacker Nico Johnson had five tackles and a tackle for loss, as did defensive back Dequan Menzie. Middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower had four tackles and two sacks. Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw was credited with four tackles and a tackle for loss and also had an interception, while cornerback John Fulton had four tackles, a tackle for loss, two passes broken up, and an interception.
Saban said, "I thought that with the experience we have coming back in the secondary that maybe we would have had a little bit more poise in the way we handled situations; not that we made mental errors, but I thought we missed some tackles and didn't play with the kind of knowledge and experience we probably need to. That led to some big-play runs and some big-play passes. A couple of those big plays came on missed tackles.
"We'll review this scrimmage film, kind of assess where we are. I know this is kind of the halfway point of the spring (the eighth of 15 practices). We are not disappointed at all at the progress we made as a team, but we're certainly very aware we have a tremendous amount of improvement we need to do -- some individually, but also collectively, and also situationally in terms of some of the things we need to work on in preparation for next season. We need to continue to work and continue to improve. I think we have to make every day count in terms of what the identity of this team is going to be. Is this team going to be remembered for who they are, or for some other team from two years ago or whatever?
"We want to be a dominant team. We want to be a team that's physical, that nobody wants to play against. I think from a toughness standpoint there was a lot of toughness out there. We've got to chanel that in the right direction so that we can be a little bit more productive in what we want to try to accomplish."
One emphasis of the spring, according to Saban, is improving pressure on the passer. "I think we had some pressure, we had some sacks," the coach said. "But I think there were times we didn't finish on the quarterback the way we'd like to. Thee were times we didn't get the pressure that we'd need to."
Kicking situations were controlled. Saban said that Marquis Maze and true freshman Dee Hart had some nice returns, but against the scout team. "It's not really fair to evaluate," he said. "What we're trying to get is the operation and the assignments, get those guys the opportunity to catch the ball, which I thought we did a pretty good job of."
The coach said the scrimmage included "five or six punting and punt return situations, three kickoff and kickoff return situations; we scored some touchdowns and had extra point situations; and I think three or four or five field goal situations."
He said the placekickers "kicked the ball fairly well."
Cade Foster made field goals of 32 yards, 47 yards, and 52 yards. He missed from 32 and 52. Jeremy Shelley made his only try, a 29-yarder.
Saban said, "The punters were inconsistent, which was an issue for us last year. They had made pretty good progress in practice. Jay Williams especially had been a lot more consistent. But today they sort of reverted back to a little inconsistency. That's something we're going to have to continue to develop. Both guys are capable. It's just a matter of being able to execute under fire with live bullets. Last year in pressure situations sometimes we didn't always do that. That's something that we need to grow and develop in.
"It's going to be very important for us to have the kind of quality in specialists we'd like to have, because the specialists go a long way in controlling the vertical field position by how they execute. It's going to be important for us."
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