Alabama begins Michigan prep Friday

QUICK HITS: Alabama coach Nick Saban addressed the importance of starting to prepare for Michigan, how the injured players are coming along, the progression of JUCO transfer cornerback Deion Belue and the battle for the third starting defensive line spot.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was in a chipper mood after practice Thursday. He started out joking with the media about attending practice again.

"The players all want your job," he said, smiling. "All they want to do is come to the first two periods of practice and then leave."

Here are five quick hits from Saban's Thursday press conference:

1. Saban said Friday they will start to zone in on Michigan. He's already installed certain schemes, but Friday is the day preparation truly begins.

"You go through the offseason program, you go through spring practice, you run 110s all summer long, you work hard to get in shape, you go through two-a-day and sometimes you lose sight of why you do all that," he said. "The reason you do all that is to get yourself ready to play games. Now, even a different level of mental focus and intensity is needed."

Saban added: "I'm sure our players are tired of practicing against each other."

2. As if Alabama's secondary hasn't already taken enough of a hit losing two players in Travell Dixon (left program) and Jarrick Williams (ACL), redshirt freshman defensive back Bradley Sylve fractured his hand in Thursday's practice. Saban said he is day-to-day.

Saban compared this injury to the ones Julio Jones, T.J. Yeldon and Dont'a Hightower sustained once upon a time.

"They all were able to come back and practice in a day," he said. "Depending on how Bradley feels, he'll be a day-to-day, but should be able to go out there and play in a case and try to get ready to play in the game."

Saban said running back Eddie Lacy (sprained ankle, knee) has practiced a little the past few days and that they are going to be conservative with wide receiver Amari Cooper (foot). They hope he can return to practice on Monday. The Monday target date goes for backup center Ryan Kelly (ankle), too.

3. JUCO transfer cornerback Deion Belue has looked good all through camp and is making an argument for a starting job. Saban said Belue has had no problem learning the defense.

"He's very instinctive," Saban said. "He's only playing on position, which I think is really key. I think where guys get into the complicated issues is when they're younger players and you try to teach them corner and star, or safety and money…I think some of our younger players this year are in a situation because we don't have a lot of depth in the secondary, where we're having to do that with some of them. I think that probably makes it a more difficult learning curve."

But Belue has been here since the spring and is ahead of the curve.

4. Saban was asked if they were going to have a specialty guy like Terrence Cody on short-yardage situations. After pondering for a minute, he said they haven't really practiced that.


"We have several big backs, but Jesse [Williams] probably played some rugby somewhere along the line. He probably knows how to carry the ball. Maybe we ought to look at him."

5. Competition for the third starting spot on the defensive line has been heating up between Quinton Dial and Ed Stinson. The other two spots are locked in with Jesse Williams at nose guard and Damion Square on the other end.

"We have six or seven guys on the defensive line who will rotate and play if we stay healthy at that position, and they'll all have some sort of role," Saban said. "Quinton is certainly one of those guys...He's a starter whether he starts the game or not."

Jeoffrey Pagan has also rotated into the first team, but is more or less considered part of the second unit along with Brandon Ivory.

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