Alabama Football Scrimmage Saturday

One of the rites of spring in Tuscaloosa is in early April when a hundred or so young men put on crimson bonnets. Also shoulder pads, hip pads, knee pads. And they are expected to put those bonnets and the rest to good use at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama will have its first scrimmage of spring practice Saturday at the stadium. It will be the eighth of the 15 allotted practice days and one of three that are permitted to be full scrimmages. The next will be the following Saturday, and the final one will be the public A-Day Game on April 20.

Saturday's scrimmage is more important than marking the point of behind halfway completed. Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban puts much stock in how players perform when they are more or less "on their own," as they are in a game. There's no coach on the field with the players putting them through their paces. They have to show that they have learned their assignments – that they know, as Saban points out, "what to do, how to do it, and why it's important to do it this way."

Saban said he and his assistant coaches will be looking for "guys that will go out and compete and be able to play their positions with the kind of effort and the kind of mental and physical toughness and the discipline that goes along with being able to execute and being responsible to do a job and do it play-in and play-out, whether they had success the play before or not."

Sometimes players do not have success, particularly in a first scrimmage.

Offensive guard Anthony Steen said in his first scrimmage, "I got laid out by Dont'a Hightower on a linebacker blitz. I wasn't even looking. I don't think I'll ever forget it."

Defensive tackle Jeoffrey Pagan also remembers the lessons of his first scrimmage. "Horrible," he said. "It was horrible. It definitely opened my eyes to greatness, and I wanted to be a part of it." He was schooled by offensive linemen Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker.

"It was ugly," Pagan added.

Steen is firmly established as he prepares for his third season as a starting right guard. Pagan, a junior, is among those who have experience, but who are hoping to step up and be a bigger part of Bama football in 2013.

Before Alabama's 42-14 thrashing of Notre Dame to win the BCS National Championship Game in January, Saban said the team saw a film in which New York Yankees baseball star pitcher Mariano Rivera discussed focusing on the job at hand. During spring break, Saban went to Tampa and met with Rivera.

Saban asked Rivera about dealing with success. Rivera whirled his hands around his head and said, "'You've got to get that out of your head and you've got to think about the next play, you've got to think about the next pitch, you've got to think about the next out. You can't be worrying about the fans, you can't be worrying about what anybody thinks about you, what they wrote about you or what you did yesterday. It's all about what you do today with the next pitch, the next out, the next batter."

That fits perfectly with Saban's philosophy that has produced the last two national championship teams and three titles in four years. Saturday's scrimmage is part of the Saban process.

Saban said, "I think it's kind of what we look for in good competitors, guys that can sustain through thick and thin, play the game because they have a lot of pride in performance and they want to be really good players and it means something to them to go out there and play well and contribute to the team and be responsible to do their job.

"Those are the kinds of things that we're looking for, in terms of guys that do that extremely well. They've done it in the past. But we obviously have a lot of other guys that we need to get to that point so that they can contribute in a positive way to the team as well."

One of those guys who has done it in the past and understands the Saban process is quarterback A.J. McCarron.

"We really don't need to accomplish anything, just play," McCarron said. "Do what the coaches tell us to do and take care of the football. That's really about it."

Senior All-America linebacker C.J. Mosley has been in a black shirt all spring, and will continue to be on non-contact status on Saturday. But that doesn't mean Mosley, who had off-season surgery to repair his right shoulder, doesn't look forward to the scrimmage.

"I'd like to be out there in the scrimmage hitting," Mosley said, "but I'm getting my shoulder right for the future, so I'm taking my time getting ready."

So what will Mosley do in the scrimmage?

"Oh, I'll probably be in the scrimmage," he said. "I just won't be hitting anybody. I've been participating in everything in practice. I'll just be non-contact."

Is it difficult to practice football and not make contact?

"I might put my left shoulder in there," Mosley said.

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