Judgment Day As Game Draws Near

Word around the Alabama football compound Thursday was that the high temperature in Kent, Ohio, was 78. Well, nyah, nyah, nyah, Alabama answered, in a manner of speaking on a day when it was close to 100 degrees in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban took the Crimson Tide into the indoor practice facility Thursday. When the indoor facility was completed in the early 1980s, Bama's medical staff said it's primary value could be in August. Not to avoid rain and cold, but to keep players from being overheated. (It is also valuable when lightning is in the area, of course.)

The Tide went through a two-hour practice in full gear inside the Hank Crisp Practice Facility.

Saban said, "When you see players struggle, and you start to have guys who are really in good shape start to have issues (such as cramping), that's the time it's not beneficial to try to get used to what you are doing. If we're not acclimated to [the heat] now, we're not going to get acclimated to it. We need to try to bring our team back a little bit, and I thought it would be a good day to give them a break; go inside and not have to deal with the heat."

Alabama is expected to begin preparation Friday for the season-opening opponent, Kent State. Bama hosts the Golden Flashes at 11:21 a.m. CDT Saturday, Sept. 3, at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"This is the day that is really the last day for us in camp from a coaching standpoint," Saban said.  "I know from a player standpoint, as soon as they move out of the dorms, that is kind of the end of camp for them, but for us as coaches, this is the end of camp, because tomorrow we'll start preparation for our first game. We'll start out like we do on a Monday and progress through the week, try to get a little more down time, shorten up practices. When we get closer to the game we'll try to get the kind of recovery that we feel like we need."

Saban said, "It's kind of judgment day. We'll look at the film and make some decisions about who we're going to put on special teams and how we're going to use them and get ready to play. We make two decisions: who are we going to play and who are we going to coach. Sometimes when you coach a guy you're developing him so he can play if you need to play him. And you redshirt him if you can. We're not worried about redshirting anybody. We're really worried about playing the best players. And anybody who can contribute to our team this year we'll certainly give him an opportunity to play."

Saban shared his conversation with his team, pointing out that during camp there were two Saturday scrimmages from which the coaches could make assessments and during the season there will be Saturday games serving that purpose. This Saturday, he said, with no scrimmage and no game, he wants the players to ask themselves: Did we really accomplish what we wanted to accomplish this week in practice.

"That's for every individual guy to assess the things he needed to work on," the coach said. "As a team we probably need to have a little more mental toughness. This is certainly a time when you have a great opportunity to devlop that because of circumstances and conditions that we've had to work in through this camp."

He said that back-up center Kellen Williams "twisted his ankle the other day in practice. They put those boots on those guys if they get a hangnail. That's not an indication of the seriousness of the injury. We think that maybe by Monday he'll be able to do some things. We're hopeful to get him back for the game."

The coach also noted that tailback Dee Hart, who suffered a knee injury and had summer surgery, is at practice (though not practicing), going through rehabilitation, riding a stationary bicycle, and attending meetings.

He said that junior defensive end Brandon Lewis was absent because of a death in the family.

In answer to a question about "how pleased" he is with Alabama being a physical football team, Saban said, "I'm never really pleased with that; as pleased as I'd like to be. We always want to dominate the line of scrimmage and play with tremendous mental and physical toughness. That's something you continue to work on, and I don't know that you ever get where you want to be when it comes to that

" I'm not disappointed where we are, but I'm certainly not satisfied we're where we'd like to go. We'll just keep working on it. That's been our trademark here, that we can be physical on the line of scrimmage. Run the ball, stop the run, win the down and distance situations in the game so we have a better opportunity to make plays on defense or offense because the sticks are in our favor. We've shown signs of making progress in that area. I think it's going to be important to the success of the team to continue to develop that kind of toughness."

He was also asked about strengths and weaknesses of the team nine days before the opening game.

He said, "Every day, there are things we need to improve on. I don't really think we've stopped the run as well as I'd like to. We need to continue to work on that. We need to strike blocks, and control people up front a little better. We probably need to work on the vertical passing game. You can't give up big plays, which is something we always continue to work on.

"But we have some good players and we've made some good plays and we're not disappointed in where we are. I just want the players to continue to be hungry and try to improve, challenge themselves, and not get in a comfort zone. We did a good job in the last scrimmage not giving up points, but did we play as well as we're capable of? Not really. And if that's not the case, we have things we need to continue to work on."

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