It's not often you hear a head coach gripe about his second- and third-string players.
In the Crimson Tide's obliterating 52-0 win over Arkansas last weekend, an ample helping of first- and second-year players got a chance to play.
Redshirt freshmen wide receivers Marvin Shinn and Danny Woodson Jr. made their first career receptions, and true freshman linebacker Denzel Devall had his first sack and recovered an Arkansas fumble. Alabama went on to score its 52nd point on the ensuing drive.
True freshman running back Kenyan Drake, who scored his first touchdown in Week 2 against Western Kentucky, found the end zone once again on a 12-yard rush in the fourth quarter. The blazing fast Drake, who was the Tide's fifth-string back before Jalston Fowler hurt his knee, finished the day with six carries for 57 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas' first-team defense.
"It's great for the players, all these guys want to play," Saban said. "They work hard, they deserve to play, we love to get them to play."
After the game, Saban was pleased with his team's performance. The offense was practically perfect in its balanced attack, rushing for 225 yards and passing for 213, the defense forced five turnovers which the offense then turned into touchdowns on the following drives, and of course, Arkansas didn't score a single point and was held to a total of 137 yards. But during his post-game press conference, Saban was upset that some of the backups weren't ready to play (which is probably not the worst problem for a coach to have at this point in the season).
"I yelled more at the second team than I did the first team," he said. "We practice all that stuff and they don't go out and do it right in the game. They don't do as well on the test because they don't think they're going to play.
"Well, you're one play from playing. We have to count on you. Can we count on you? If you have no other motivation in the world, your motivation should be, ‘I don't want to be the guy that screws up.'"
He sees how they work in practice, but the test is to find out if it transfers over into a game situation.
"We've got young guys that have to learn by doing it and hopefully they'll learn," Saban said. "It does them good when they get their butt chewed out a little bit, too. It helps their mental toughness, I think."
Monday after Saban had watched film and simmered down from the weekend, he was still frustrated with how his backups played.
"What they don't understand is, those guys got to play because we were ahead in the game, but one of these days they might have to play because we need them to play because somebody else can't play," he said. "They need to do a much better job of preparing themselves."
Sophomore wide receiver Christion Jones said it means a lot for the first- and second-year players to get on the field early in the season, especially against an SEC opponent.
"Coach always says we're as strong as our weakest link," he said. "The third string has to go out there and have the same amount of intensity and be able to execute their plays as if it was the first team. I think we're doing a good job of getting that across to our team.
"It just looks good when they go out and execute just as well as the first group did."
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