Saban Wants To See Winning Tide Players

On Thursday, Alabama had its final football practice of the spring prior to the A-Day football game. The most important observer of what happens at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday will be Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban. Following Thursday's practice, Saban said "I want to see them play football."



Nick Saban will know more about what he wants to see from the Alabama team than the nearly 100,000 fans who are expected in the stadium Saturday when the game begins at 2 p.m.

Following Thursday's practice, Saban said, "I want to see who can play winning football. Who can go out there in the circumstance that they're going to be in which this team has not been in, they have not been in front of a large crowd in a stadium, in a game-like circumstance, where they have to go out and focus every play that has a history and life of its own and compete like a relentless competitor. Play with toughness but still have poise to execute and do their job. How will they be able to do it. Hopefully, if we have enough guys who can do that, there'll be good execution offensively, defensively, it ought to be a very competitive game. That's the goal for what we want to see. Wherever we are right now as a team, that's what we're going to find out when we see this game. So I'm anxious to see how the players compete. I'd like to see them have fun. It's the culmination of spring practice. It's the culmination of the off-season program. I've been very, very pleased with what we've been able to accomplish this spring. But we sort of see how it sort of comes to fruition in the game."

It was no surprise that the question of quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims being listed as quarterbacks on both the Crimson (first offense) and White (second offense) teams for the A-Day Game.

"They are both going to play with the first team," Saban said. "That's the plan.

"I think you all need to change your mindset about this quarterback thing and get out of the competition world and just say we've got two quarterbacks here that both have had a really good spring and both have played really well. And every time they have an opportunity to play, we'll see how they respond to that circumstance and situation. Just like we'll see how they play in this game. That's why I want both of them to play with both teams, to see how they respond to the situation. It's part of the overall evaluation. And if they both respond well, that's a good thing. But when we're a team. Everything is now a competition between people on our team."

From an overall standpoint of spring practice, Saban said, "I've been really pleased with the progress we've been able to make as a team. I've been pleased with the attitude that the team has sort of had in terms of doing the kind of things you need to do to develop into a good team. We obviously have areas of the team where we've got new players, new opportunities, a lack of experience. So I think most teams probably go through that this time of year.

"We're certainly looking forward to Saturday, the game-type situation for our team. I look at the spring game more like an exhibition game. We'll play the first offense on the crimson team; first defense on the white team. The twos will be playing each other. So it's a very competitive game.

"We play for steak and beans, which is big around here." The winning team gets to eat a steak dinner, while the losers eat beans.

"We're really looking forward to the game," Saban said." It is an opportunity for our players to get on the field, play in a game-like situation with a lot of distractions, whether it's what's happening before the game, the crowd during the game, the things that happen while the game goes on, are all things that mature players can deal with, stay focused on the task and be able to compete consistently. That's what we want to sort of see where we're at in that regard.

"From a fan standpoint, one of the things that's contributed to our success around here as much as anything is the great interest that we have and the great crowds that we have for the spring game. It creates a tremendously positive atmosphere for our players. They love to be a part of it. All the recruits and the people that we have visiting here, it turns out to be a fantastic day at our university. I know it's a real, real positive thing for us. Your fan support is certainly appreciated in this one and I hope we have another magnificent crowd for this game. We're really excited about it and looking forward to it.

Saban noted that Alabama has great traditions, and pointed to the captains being honored at Denny Chimes, a ceremony at noon Saturday. Last year's captains, Greg McElroy, Mark Barron, and Dont'a Hightower will participate.

A ceremony he did not mention is that a statue of Saban will be dedicated in the North end zone plaza prior to the game. Saban's statue joins those of other Alabama coaches who have directed Bama to national championships – Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul Bryant, and Gene Stallings.

Saban discussed the offensive line situation, which has had some fluctuation in the spring with returning right guard Barrett Jones working at left tackle.

"We always want to try to play our five best players on the offensive line," Saban said. "It has to fit. We have three options at left tackle. We'll find out if Barrett Jones can play there. We know what Alfred McCullough can do. And we're developing Aaron Douglas. So we have three options. Now, how that's going to sort out I'm not in the prediction business. And we've got a summer and 29 practices before we play a game, and a couple games, probably to sort it out, too, and see how we play."

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