Alabama Football Has Opportunities

Who would have dreamed that the Alabama football team – 2011 national champion and picked by many to repeat in 2012 – would be the land of playing time opportunity? Following the first scrimmage of spring practice, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said "A lot of guys have opportunities."

"I thought this first scrimmage was better, maybe, than I anticipated in some ways," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said after the two-hour, 120-play practice at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide is just past the halfway point of spring practice with the Saturday the ninth of 15. The final practice will be the A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 14.

"We have two weeks left," Saban said. "We will obviously evaluate this film and see where we want to go. Hopefully, making the kind of progress we need to make, we will be able to work on some of our new opponents for next year and give our players a little knowledge and experience of something a little different than what we've been practicing."

Saban said, "The whole goal of spring practice is to get the right guys on the bus, get them in the right seats and get the wrong guys off the bus. I am talking about character, attitude and competitive spirit, guys that can be responsible and accountable to do their jobs. We have a lot of guys working hard, and we've made a lot of progress as a team.

"I think the biggest thing that see out there is, our first units really sort of dominated the scrimmage and played well and showed maturity and a competitive spirit that we need to be successful. I think the biggest thing is we need more players to understand what it takes to win. You've got to have a vision for what you want to accomplish. You've got to have a plan for how you want to go about trying to accomplish it. You certainly got to be accountable and leadership on the team has to hold people accountable so you can establish the kind of standards and core values that you need to be successful.

"I think with a lot of young players that's the thing we need to really improve on, is getting more players to understand what it takes to play winning football on a consistent basis. I'm talking about things like effort, toughness, focus to execute, the kind of intensity you need to do your job on a consistent basis. That's probably the biggest thing that we need to do."

"We've got a lot of guys working hard. We've made a lot of progress as a team. A lot of guys got lots of opportunities."

Saban said that quarterback Phillip Sims was hampered by a sore shoulder and that he got repetitions only for the sake of signal-calling and calling plays. He was unable to pass effectively, said the coach, who added that until the injury Sims had been competing well.

Also on the injury front he reiterated the known injuries – tailback Eddie Lacy (turf toe) and offensive tackle Arie Kouandjio (kneecaps) being out for the spring. Tailback Blake Sims injured his hip playing basketball during spring break. DeAndrew White did not play in the scrimmage as he is nursing a hamstring pull. He should be okay in a few days, Saban said. The coach said that offensive lineman Chad Lindsey missed the scrimmage because "he got dinged" earlier this week, but that Lindsey should be back Monday.

Saban said the specialists "did well today; much improved." He pointed to Jeremy Shelley making four-of-four field goals and Cade Foster making three-of-four with the one that was missed being a 54-yard try that was partially blocked by Nico Johnson. He complimented Christion Jones for punt returns.

Deion Belue, a junior college transfer cornerback, had an interception and 97-yard touchdown runback against the first offense. Saban said Belue "has really done a good job. He has played well. He is a good cover guy. He learns quickly and is very instinctive. We're pleased with the progress he's made."

The Tide head coach also complimented the spring work of cornerbacks John Fulton and Dee Milliner.

Travell Dixon, another junior college transfer cornerback, "is moving around a lot now, star, corner and a lot of stuff and he's got a little overload right now, but he's very conscientious and should be a guy who contribute in the two deep."

He said Bradley Sylve, who moved from wide receiver to cornerback late last season, has improved, but needs to be more consistent.

Saban is understandably concerned about linebacker, where the Tide lost five of the top eight from last season, including starters Don't'a Hightower in the middle and Courtney Upshaw and Jerrell Harris on the outside.

The coach was asked about the new men at outside spots. He said the first men, Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson, "are doing very well. We don't have enough depth behind them. I don't know if you can have enough guys to replace them all until you get all the new guys in."

He did say that true freshman Dillon Lee "has done a nice job and had a good spring." He also said Brent Callaway, moved from tailback to linebacker this spring, "is making progress. He still doesn't know what he's doing. He's got to figure it out, get a lot of reps, get some confidence."

He said wide receiver Kenny Bell "has had a really good spring. He's probably been the most consistent guy making plays. Christion Jones had a good day [in the scrimmage]. Kevin Norwood has done a good job. I think Amari Cooper has shown a lot of ability as an incoming freshman. He's still feeling his way sometimes and trying to learn. DeAndrew White was having a really good spring prior to pulling his hamstring again. I feel pretty good about the progress those guys have made."

The coach said, "A.J. McCarron has had a really good spring, and sometimes the quarterback can make the receivers look pretty good -- and vice versa."

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