Scrimmage Stats Not Part Of Story

Reporters are not permitted to watch Alabama practices. That's the prerogative of the head football coach, and it means that reports from scrimmages are limited to what the head coach elects to share. Following Alabama's first scrimmage of fall work, the decision was that statistics of the running backs and quarterbacks, and almost all others, were kept secret.

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said that he did not want a quarterback controversy developed from statistics. He also said the running game was not effective. Therefore, here are the offensive statistics released from Bama's Saturday scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium:

Marquis Maze had five receptions for 123 yards and three touchdowns.

Saban has made it clear in the past that raw statistics don't tell the story. One quarterback playing with the second offense against the first defense will likely have statistics that are not as good as a quarterback playing with the first offense against the second defense.

In the past, Saban has indicated that both quarterback candidates – sophomore A.J. McCarron and redshirt freshman Phillip Sims – would get equal time with the first unit. Was that the case Saturday? Reporters don't know. Was one quarterback substantially more effective than the other? Top secret.

Saban said, "Guys playing against the twos is a little bit different than playing against the ones, and vice-versa, for everybody out there. So how a guy does is relative to leaderships, his command, the opportunities that he had, what receivers he had, who he was playing against, there were so many factors and variables, but that decision will not be made based on statistical information."

The statistics not given are not important, Saban said. "It's about who can play winning football at that position."

He added, "There are a lot of reasons why a ball was incomplete. Quarterback is a hard position to play when the people around you don't play well. So if you're getting pressure, or the receiver's not getting open, you're going to have a hard time being effective, and that's not just about what you do. That goes for both guys."

Saban has said in the past that both quarterback candidates are doing well and that he believes both can be winning quarterbacks. On Saturday he said, "I don't want to make this a public controversy. This is something that we're going to handle internally. They're doing a great job of handling it and I don't think we need anyone to add to the confusion of what we're managing relative to those two guys competing for this position, and they're doing a great job of it. If everyone else could just be patient, and allow them to do a great job of it,"

Although a reasonable conclusion (not necessarily a correct one) would be that one or both of the quarterbacks did not perform well, Saban said,"We did make some big plays in the passing game. I thought both quarterbacks played well when they had their opportunities, and it'll be interesting to evaluate and see how all that went. Sometimes it's hard to evaluate."

Saban was generally optimistic following the first of two scrimmages the team will have in fall work. (The next one is scheduled for next Saturday.)

"We have a lot to work on and we're certainly looking forward to it," he said. "We have a team that has a chance to develop into something I think that could be pretty good, but everybody's commitment to that is going to be critical to the development of that. I also think everybody's relationship with each other – I think some people refer to it as team chemistry and maturity -- are probably important to being successful, so how those kinds of things develop on this team will go a long way to determining the answers [to questions] that you have, that I have, that everyone has. Right now, there are no answers. It's just a matter of do we develop the answers."

Saban said it was a difficult scrimmage to evaluate, in part because the team is tired after six practices in three days.

"You've got a little bit of a weary team," he said, "but but one of the things you have to learn in camp is you've got to fight weary. That's one of the things you have to do in the season. There's a lot of difficulty. There's a lot of circumstances and adversity that you have to overcome. That's one the things that we're trying to work mentally to get our players to be able to do as a football team.

"Now, obviously the more maturity, the more experience you have, those guys seem to be able to do it a little better, and we have some young guys that probably need to make some improvement in that area.

"We have a long way to go as a team. We probably had far too many penalties out there today, too many missed assignments, too many mental errors."

He added that if the team had a perfect practice in its 11th practice, it would not need the other 18 leading up to the first game. Bama opens the season September 3 hosting Kent State.

"So we have things we need to improve on," he said. "This will certainly give us a great barometer of where we are as a team. We can evaluate a lot of players to see how they responded in a competitive situation and how they competed and how they played.

"I saw a lot of good things out there from a lot of players, but I also saw a lot of things that we need to improve on to be a good football team – how to play with consistency. We need more players to be able to do that.

"We weren't able to run the ball effectively today or with any kind of consistency, which I think is a real key for us. I think our offensive line is actually improved over a year ago. So that's something that I think will be critical to team success. You always have to be able to handle the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That's something we want to do a better job of."

He said part of the problem in the running game might have been timing. And when a team practices against itself, sometimes a failure on one side is due to the performance on the other side. "Defensively," he said, "we're not bad against stopping the run."

He said that center William Vlachos missing some work at center meant moving Barrett Jones to center. He also noted that freshman Cyrus Kouandjio is a "young guy that has a lot of potential" at left tackle. He said that if a left tackle is developed that Jones could return to guard, and that Bama has three men who have done well at guard – returning starting left guard Chance Warmack and Anthony Steen, who he said "has done a really good job.

"So there's some moving parts there. So at some point in time in this camp, we need to develop some cohesion in that, but I feel like we have more power up front, then we should be a better running team."

Saban was asked about the pass rush. "I think we've improved in that area," he said. "We seem to have more athletic guys. Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower both have done a really good job in pass rush. Adrian Hubbard is a guy that has a chance to add to that. He's really got some ability as a pass rusher.

"I think we have more athletic guys in the interior who may be able to push the pocket – even though I don't think we have one guy that's as good a pass rusher as a dominant guy as Marcell Dareus, I think we have more guys as a group who may be able to rush the passer. We've done a pretty good job of that.

"Last year, we weren't an effective pressure team because we made a lot of mental errors in pressure. I don't think we have some of those issues this year. We've got a lot more knowledge and experience and that should be a benefit to us."

He said on special teams he was "pleased with the specialists," meaning punters Cody Mandell and Jay Williams who he said "were much mnore consistent." He said placekickers Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster missed only "tough kicks. I think Cade made one from 51 yards or something like that. He may have missed one from 45 and made one from 45. I was pleased with the specialists.

"I still think our returners are areas where we need to make improvement in terms of whose really going to ascend at those positions and give us the kind of returner that we need.

"I do think Marquis Maze has done a really good job and has improved in his ability to handle the ball and judge the ball. His ball security has improved. He certainly is explosive and the kind of guy that we need there.

"DeAndrew White has showed some promise in doing that. Christion Jones has showed some promise in doing that. He struggled a little bit today a couple times fielding the ball, but first time out there when they're covering live, we'll see how he develops."

On the injury front, he said that Hightower, who had a surgical procedure on his hand Thursday, was able to practice Friday and went through about 90 per cent of Saturday's scrimmage Tight end Brian Vogler has had shoulder surgery and did not practice. Defensive end-linebacker Alex Watkins was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons. He has been practicing after having undergone knee surgery last spring. Freshman offensive lineman Ryan Kelly continued to be held out after having suffered a concussion.

The only injury inb the scrimmage, Saban said, was cornerback Dee Milliner getting hit in the chin and suffered a laceration and "a little ding." Milliner is expected back "shortly."

A few defensive statistics released by Saban:

Linebacker C.J. Mosley had six tackles; linebacker Courtney Upshaw had five tackles, two for loss, and a sack; and safety Mark Barron had five tackles.

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