Those darn dog days of summer. When the heat index is 101, the humidity is worse and there aren't any clouds in the sky to provide a sliver of shade, the going gets tough.
But at Alabama, the tough get going. Tuesday, the Tide completed their 14th preseason practice, marking the halfway point of fall camp. Sept. 1 is now just 18 days away.
"This is the most difficult week," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "Everyone looks forward to the first scrimmage, then this becomes a bit of a hump week in terms of guys continuing to improve and work on the things they need to work on. It's all about where you are, where you want to go and how you're going to get there."
After looking at the film from Saturday's scrimmage, Saban and his coaching staff were able to dissect each player and show them where they need to develop.
"We don't have one player on our team who doesn't have something he can improve on, something that needs to be focused on or worked on," he said. "And I think the players have responded really well because we practiced really well the last three practices. Two yesterday and one day, and it was tough out there today."
Right now Saban said his main point of emphasis to his team is, "Does something bad have to happen? Do you have to have a thunderbolt hit you before you're willing to do things the right way?"
And so far so good, as Saban is pleased with the way his players are trying to do things the "right way," which includes having mental intensity, a sense of urgency and playing with discipline.
The prototypical Bama running back
"Every position has critical factors," he said. "One of the things we always look for in backs is not only do they have change of direction, can they run with some power, can they run behind their pads, are they difficult-to-tackle type guys. You can only be a complete player as a running back if you can be an effective receiver as well."
In the 2009 national championship season, Ingram had 32 receptions for 334 yards and three touchdowns; in '11, Richardson had 29 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
In Saturday's scrimmage, Eddie Lacy, who as a backup last season caught 29 balls for 131 yards, had five receptions for 25 yards and Jalston Fowler, who has been rotating in with the tight ends and H-backs during camp, had three receptions for 40 yards.
"Those guys—the tight ends and running backs—they get the best mismatch guys covering them," Saban said. "To have those kind of guys in the passing game, to get them the ball in space is a real advantage for any offense."
Off the field issues
"We have a tremendous—I'll put it up against anyone in the country—peer intervention program," he said, which involves players being able to talk to sports psychiatrists and psychologists regarding positive attitudes and goal setting.
Regarding Mathieu, Saban said, "This is not a football problem. This is a national problem with all students, except they don't have to go through drug testing, they don't have an obligation because it's against NCAA rules."
Saban said Alabama is "constantly making an investment in our players making good decisions and understanding consequences of bad decisions and how it can affect their future."
He added: "I think what we're talking about here is foresight. Mature people have foresight, they can see what happens, they understand the consequences of their behavior. Sometimes, immature people don't and we most certainly want to try to develop that as quickly as we can so that our players make good choices and decisions and can take advantage of their gifts—personally, academically and athletically."
Too early to talk Michigan?
With over two weeks until Alabama kicks off the season against Michigan in Dallas, is it too early to talk about the game?
Though Saban has surely started game-planning, he didn't give it up for the media.
"I really don't think it's time to start talking about Michigan," he said. "Most of the time we talk when we've got one week to get ready for the game. With the first game we can take a few more days than that.
"But Denard Robinson is one of the most explosive players in college football. Their offense really is geared to his talent, his ability. It's going to be very challenging for us when we start getting ready to play Michigan to be able to come pu with a system and a scheme and enough discipline for our guys to play things the way they need to play to contain this player."
Saban said that freshman wide receiver Chris Black's shoulder surgery went well and junior safety Jarrick Williams had his ACL surgery today, but he hasn't been able to speak with the doctor yet to find out how everything went.
"We're hoping both those guys have successful rehabs and get back to their team," he said.
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