Saban Wants Action, Not Intention

Consistency. Mental energy. Focus. Perseverance. Intensity. Mental toughness. In the heat of football fall camp, those are more than just words being used around the Alabama football scene.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban put his team through a two-hour practice in the heat of Tuscaloosa Thursday, a day after the Tide had gone through two practices on Wednesday. Moreover, there's a scrimmage just ahead, on Saturday.

"It's not what your intention is," Saban said. "It's what your action is. And everybody controls his own actions by what he does."

Alabama had its eighth practice of fall camp Thursday. The Crimson Tide is working towards the season-opener against Kent State in Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 3.

"The focus for us right now is playing with consistency," Saban said. "We need to get everybody out there on a daily basis having the kind of focus, mental energy and intensity that you need to improve, so you can play winning football at your position. You have to have lots of mental toughness to be able to persevere under the circumstances that we are in, but everyone that we are playing against is in the same situation. It is hot everywhere. Everybody controls their own actions by what they do. That is what we need to continue to do as an entire team, not one part of the team one day, another part of the team the next day.

"Everybody's got to have that kind of mental energy and intensity all the time to improve. Every day you go out there, you get better or you get worse, you don't stay the same.

"I see improvement in some areas of the team but I don't see it with the kind of consistency that we need, because that's what creates a dependability and trust that everybody has in each other."

Saban said he would be looking for those attributes when the Crimson Tide goes to Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday for the first of two pre-season scrimmage practices.

He said he would look to see "who can go out there and play with the kind of consistency and play winning football at their position? Who can persevere and have the mental toughness and discipline to do their job? I think we need to find that out about a lot of our players. Some players around here have done that in the past. It might not be as critical for them as it is for the younger guys who have a chance to contribute to the team."

One area Saban hopes to see improvement this year is Alabama's defense causing fumbles. An embarrassing statistic from last year is that Bama ranked 118th in the nation in causing fumbles. There are only 120 teams in the Tide's division.

To some extent, Alabama is not changing its force fumble drills.

"We did it last year," he said. "We always do. But we are getting more in camp and we are emphasizing it. Players are more aware of it. We do a turnover circuit once every three practices for every player on defense. We're constantly emphasizing stripping it and getting it out, effort getting to the ball.

" You never know when those kind of opportunities are going to occur. Every ball that hits the ground in practice, our guys have to scoop and score, whether it's a fumble, an incomplete pass or whatever it is.

"We did this last year. When we went to visit the Saints, they were one of the top teams in the NFL in turnover ratio.

"We got lots of interceptions, we just didn't get very many caused fumbles and fumble recoveries, so that's something we need to improve on. But the (2009) national championship team didn't get that many either; we only had seven, which is a whole lot better than two or whatever we got last year.   That wasn't what it needs to be and we need to improve on it.

"We also need to improve on our ball security on offense. Needless to say, fumbles really had an impact on the outcome of our season."

Saban was asked about the difference in Dont'a Hightower apparently being recovered from the knee injury that ended his season early in 2009. (Ironically, the question came on a day when Hightower missed practice with a hand injury that required a surgical procedure.)

Saban said, "Last year he didn't feel 100 per cent. I think he worried about the injury, that he would get injured again. think that's really all behind him. I really started to see the last two or three games of the year, where he was playing a little bit more like Dont'a of old. Certainly the bowl game looked that way.

"He has done a great job this offseason. His body fat is way down, his muscle mass is way up. He's quicker and faster and more explosive in pass rush. I think he's the guy, because most of the other guys look up to him."

As part of his Thursday post-practice report, Saban discussed injuries, including Hightower missing practice. "He'll probably be ready to come back and practice tomorrow," Saban said. "He doesn't even know how he did it."

Also missing was center William Vlachos, who was ill. Defensive end Undra Billingsley was hospitalized with illness earlier this week and has not returned. Freshman offensive lineman Ryan Kelly "is day-to-day," Saban said. "When these guys get concussions, we're very cautious on when they can come back and play."

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