In Alabama's 52-0 throttling of Arkansas over the weekend, the Crimson Tide were almost perfectly balanced on offense, rushing for 225 yards and passing for 213, forced five turnovers and turned all of them into touchdowns, had eight touchbacks and held the Razorbacks to a total of 137 yards.
Not too shabby, right? Well on cue, head coach Nick Saban said at his weekly Monday press conference that his team still has much to work on.
"We were far from flawless," he said. "Sometimes everybody just looks at the result."
Saban went through a laundry list of areas his team can and must improve on through the season, like the pass rush, coverage, penalties (they had seven), consistency, and "we had a few too many missed tackles for my liking."
Saban preaches against complacency from last year's national championship and the same goes from week to week in-season.
"Being average is contagious," he said. "If you demand more of yourselves, you get more.
"There's always room to improve. You've never really arrived…It's human nature sometimes that people respond better when things go bad. I want to see if our players have the maturity to be able to respond even when things don't go bad."
Despite rumor, Alabama does teach backpedaling
Over the summer, former Tider and current Cincinnati Bengal cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick caused a little bit of a stir when he said that he wasn't taught to backpedal at Alabama.
Saban looked befuddled when asked why he doesn't teach the secondary to backpedal.
"They all can backpedal," he said. "We play our corners up on people a lot so sometimes they bail off, sometimes they play bump and run, sometimes they get off and backpedal.
"I just think that we're just not philosophically into playing a lot of soft coverage. We can line up 7, 8, 9 yards off the ball and give them a lot of easy throws in front. But we do teach them how to backpedal."
Safety HaHa Clinton-Dix was asked about the Kirkpatrick comment. He said that the defensive backs are taught backpedaling techniques at Alabama.
"I have no take on that, what went on in Cincinnati with Dre Kirkpatrick," he said. "I really don't know anything about that. I mean we do backpedal in practice. I don't know exactly where that came from."
Saban was also asked if he was taught how to backpedal in college. He smiled and said he could backpedal when he played and he can still do it now.
"And I can cover," he joked.
Psychology of turnovers
Alabama has scored 70 points off the 12 turnovers it's forced this season. Saban said that forcing turnovers—or on the contrary, not—is all about consciousness and awareness.
"I think it gets a little bit contagious," he said. "Sometimes that becomes psychological and you start getting a lot of turnovers. Everybody sort of is focused on that and being able to create plays and get them."
Linebacker C.J. Mosely said the defense's goal is to force two or three turnovers every day in practice, because their goal is to force two or three every game (they've been averaging four per game). The defense getting after the offense in practice also helps with ball security.
The offense has only turned the ball over one time so far, so how hard is it to make them fumble in practice?
"If you work on it everyday, it is hard because [the offense] worries about hanging onto the ball after they make the play," Mosley said. "Maybe they make the catch and then we have a defensive player run them down 20 yards down the field and knocking the ball, so it keeps us both conscious and on our feet."
On the other side, is there any defensive player that is particularly good at stripping the ball?
"They're all pretty much even, but there are sneaky ones…like Robert Lester, he's a sneaky one," Lacy said. "He'll wait for you to turn around and jog back to the huddle and he'll just come up behind you and knock it out."
Lacy also said that strength and condition coach Scott Cochran will walk around during practice and rip the ball out of players' hands to make sure they're aware of their surroundings.
"He gets you like right when you least expect it," he said. "We watch out for him the whole time, but then you'll kind of forget about him and then he just pops up and hits the ball out. It's fun for him."
And it keeps the players on their toes.
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