Tide Begins Work At Regaining Form

Three weeks down and three to go. It has been a little over three weeks since Alabama ended its regular season of football with a 42-14 romp over Auburn. There are three weeks to go until Jan. 9, when the Crimson Tide will meet LSU in New Orleans in the BCS National Championship Game.

Alabama went back to practice Monday, but not so much practice for LSU. With so much time between games, and still plenty of time even though the players have been away from actual football practice, management dictates an organized approach that will feel much like pre-season camp this week.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said the Tide would practice in Tuscaloosa through Friday and that "these five days of practice before Christmas is to build a solid foundation fundamentally for the players to build on.

"Blocking, tackling, mental toughness, conditioning, ball security. Just fundamentals. Everything that you do as a football player, really is the goal of what we have for this week."

Alabama is 11-1 and ranked second in the nation. LSU is 13-0 and ranked first in the nation. The Fighting Tigers have the only win over Bama, a 9-6 overtime game in Tuscaloosa a month and a half ago. The Tide leads the nation in all the major defensive categories.

But, Saban said, that doesn't mean Alabama is ready to play a football game.

" Probably in most players' minds, they just feel like ‘I'll pick up right where we left off three weeks ago,'" the coach said. "Even though we've worked out quite a bit in that time, I think some of them find out it's a little bit different when you've got shoulder pads and helmets. (The Tide was in shells Monday and will be in full gear Tuesday. Bama is working in its indoor facility for the most part since the BCS game will be played in the Louisiana Superdome.)

"They're going to have to get back fundamentally to being football players in terms of their conditioning."

He said the time between the Auburn game and the upcoming BCS National Championship Game "is as long a time as we have ever had between games. This is the kind of challenge that every player has to take individually and know what it takes for him to get ready to play. We have to have a good plan, which I think we do, to try to get them to where they need to be."

The coach said the first day back had gone well. "The players were anxious to get back to work," he said. "They had good energy and enthusiasm in the work. It was good work for the first day.

"We're going back and starting this just like we're starting camp over, first day of practice, same installments, same fundamentals. We'll do that all five days this week."

Even though there has not been practice since the win over Auburn, Saban said work had been ongoing. "We recruited last week," he said. "The players did some working out on their own and finished their finals. Now their focus must be on building a foundation that they need to play, hopefully, our best football of the season."

The Tide coach said that the time off had been beneficial for those nursing injuries. "I think everybody that we expected to be healthy and able to play can do that," he said. He also said there were no academic issues "right now," but said that receivers Michael Bowman and Ronald Carswell had been suspended "for some time."

Saban explained that even though he and his coaching staff had been recruiting in recent weeks, "We do have personnel here that have been with the players, that supervise the players. I've seen quite a few players. I'm not gone all the time. I usually recruit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and stay in on Monday and Friday and here on weekends for recruiting. I've seen quite a few players.

"I absolutely love being back at practice, love being with the players. That's the thing that I enjoy the most--teaching and working with the players. It's good to be back.

"Scott Cochran and his staff of people in the weight room and the coaches who have been off the road who have watched feel like the players have done what we asked them to do.

"Now, we've got to continue to sort of get back and build on that. Short of practicing, there's really no way to bring the Auburn game today until you practice all the time. I think if we practiced all the time, the players would go psychologically brain dead on you after a while."

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