It's been a long two months since Alabama spring ball ended, but as of today, college football is back in action in Tuscaloosa.
Head coach Nick Saban, fresh off this morning's practice with the veteran players, took the podium and addressed the local media for his first press conference of the season.
Nonchalant, Saban began, "I must admit I've missed you all." Not even the slightest smile crossed his face. The king of deadpan, perhaps.
"It was actually good to come back from vacation so I get the opportunity to actually tell somebody else what to do," he continued. "All I did was take orders the whole time."
Jokes aside, Alabama started fall camp Friday, which means Saban will spend the remainder of the month pacing the practice field, watching film and the like, figuring out what he has in this squad before kicking things off against Michigan on Sept. 1.
The nitty gritty
Saban said the most important thing about fall camp is execution. Having lost a load of talent from last year's team, the Crimson Tide are a younger bunch this year and the main goal for the next month is going to be gelling as a team and executing on a consistent basis.
"We're going to have a lot of opportunity for a lot of young players to play and have a role on the team," Saban said. "How well they learn and mature as players so that they can play with the consistency of performance that's going to allow us to play with a high standard is going to be the key to how quickly this team develops."
Additionally, what will the carryover be like from spring practice? Have the players sucked the life out of their summer workouts and improved through June and July? Have they taken what they've learned and acted upon it? And if so, can they execute as expected?
"That's really what is most important about this fall camp," Saban said.
Alabama had a "split practice" on the first day of camp with the older players coming in the morning and the younger guys at night. Saban thinks it's a good way to "eliminate some of the anxieties" of young players their first time out at practice.
When players get mushed together, the younger guys tend to end up in the back of the lines and don't get as many reps. With split practices, the coaching staff can evaluate their depth better.
"This way the focus of our attention will be on those young players," Saban said. "And the pace of the learning and the teaching can be adjusted to their knowledge and experience. They're going to get all the attention and they're going to get all the reps, which I think is a good way to start for them."
Saturday, the younger players will be integrated into the rest of the team, but at least they'll be more familiar with what to do and won't have that deer caught in headlights look.
Saban hasn't run two-a-days since he was at Michigan State. Why? Because he doesn't believe players can truly recover well enough between the sessions.
"Our theory is, we want guys to eat two meals and drink twice to rehydrate between every practice," he said. "We try to make up for the time that we're not on the field with meeting time, teaching, walk-throughs, visual aids that players can get a visual perception of what you're trying to teach them.
"We feel that sometimes that's just as effective and we end up with more of our players on the field because we have less guys have issues, whether they're injuries or heat problems."
However, despite popular believe that everyone hates two-a-days anyway, safety Robert Lester had a different opinion.
"Honestly, I don't really hate them," he said. "I look at them as more plays to get better. It's a little more exhausting, but when you get to the fourth quarter of the LSU game, you might be exhausted. It pays off to get that conditioning in."
Saban said there are no injuries.
"[Lacy] went through this summer and worked through the rehab and worked his way up to what everybody else was doing in the conditioning program," Saban said. "He hasn't done a lot of cutting. That will be the next test. But he took every rep that he was supposed to take in practice today and didn't seem to have an issue."
As for Kouandjio, who will practice in tonight's session, Saban said he is coming along much better than anticipated relative to his injuries.
"We're hopeful that he will continue to progress and be ready to play in the first game, but that's going to be day-to-day evaluation to see how he can sustain the workload," Saban said.
Additionally, linebacker C.J. Mosley mentioned that he's back to normal after dislocating his hip in the National Championship Game. He also told reporters that Adrian Hubbard, who is expected to fill the void left by Courtney Upshaw, is coming off surgery for an undisclosed injury.
-There is "nothing new" on "the one guy that has not reported yet" due to NCAA eligibility issues, which is deemed to be freshman offensive lineman Brandon Hill. Saban said, "We don't have any resolution on that to this point."
-Saban said Blake Sims will split time at running back and quarterback. He says he's repped at quarterback "significantly" and gives the Tide a "different look" at the position.
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