Saban Doesn't Expect Satisfaction

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has what is almost unanimously regarded as the nation's finest football team. That squad will have its first scrimmage of fall camp this week. Saban does not expect to be satisfied.



The Alabama football team practiced for two hours in full pads under the sun in at the Thomas-Drew Practice Fields Thursday afternoon. The practice marked the eighth of the training camp. Bama will have two practices Friday and then go to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the first scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday. All practices are closed to the public.

Has he ever really been happy with a team's first scrimmage?

"Not really," Saban said. "First of all, we're not going to have a perfect scrimmage, we're not going to have a perfect first game. Whatever is imperfect, we'll want to try to work to correct. I think that good competitors try to do things the right way. I think they have pride in their performance. I don't think we'll have many players that get a 100 percent grade on everything in the scrimmage from an effort, toughness, assignment standpoint. Technique to execute.

"There'll be so many things that we have the opportunity to work on to improve. I think that we won't be satisfied. It's just a work in progress that we're trying to build on to try to improve. Wherever we are, we have to continue to improve.

"And it's not the same for every place on the team. Sometimes some parts of the offense are really further along than others. Sometimes some parts of the defense are further along than others. Sometimes the depth on the team that you need at certain positions is not as far along as you need it to be.

"There are all these things that you try to do to create a standard and I'm sure we're not going to be there in the first scrimmage. I'm pretty certain of it. Even if we do have a significant number of players that are, there'll be a significant number of other players that we'll need to get there. It'll just continue to be a work in progress."

That work in progress on Thursday was in hot, humid weather, a heat index of 105 in Tuscaloosa.

"This is really the dog days of camp for every player," Saban said. "It takes a lot of mental discipline, self-discipline, to be able to stay focused in the conditions. I look at it like this is an opportunity for us to be able to overcome adversity, stay focused, create the kind of mental toughness and ability to sustain performance that can be helpful to us playing during the season."

Saban confirmed Wednesday's news that freshman nose tackle Dakota Ball had an apendectomy and would be out for a few weeks.

"I don't think we have anybody else that's seriously out for any length of time," he said. "We have guys that are banged up, beat up, that might be in a black (no contact) jersey for a day or whatever, but nothing that's that significant."

Saban said this is a time in practice to "try to develop some confidence and consistency in some of the younger players and polish up the older players so that we can make some good evaluations in the scrimmage on who might be able to help us.

"Who is worth, based on the scrimmage evaluation and guys going out there being able to perform and be competitors, who is it that's going to be worth investing the time in to try to develop, who has the ability to sustain a high level of performance so that they can contribute to the team.

"That's something that we want to come out of the camp knowing. We may not know it after this scrimmage, but it'll be a big step.

"I think the big thing is you can't really evaluate that if the guy doesn't know what to do. For some of these young guys, that's pretty challenging right now. Hopefully in the next two days we can clean that up and develop some confidence in that, so it'll help us get the right people in the right places on both sides of the ball and special teams.

"And we can continue to work with them and develop them to hopefully be a consistent performer on the team."

Saban discussed a few positions.

Asked about young players helping on the defensive line, he said, "I think all of our freshmen have shown some ability to be possibilities of guys that can play this year. Jonathan Allen, A'Shawn Robinson, Dee Liner, all three of those guys have shown some ability that they might be able to contribute this year in some role, some defined role. We're going to continue to work with those guys and it all depends on how they develop. They've shown that they have the potential to be players that might be able to contribute but are they going to be able to develop and improve? Are they going to sort of flat-line on us and just sort of level off and not continue to make progress? Are they going to have the maturity to be able to take the field? There's so many questions that you just have to get answered when it comes to young players. We like them and we're excited about having the opportunity to work with them."

As for the secondary, he said:

"I think we've got a long way to go. I'm kind of encouraged by the progress especially of some of the young guys. I think having John Fulton back, moving Cyrus Jones in the spring, having a couple of young guys come in, Bradley Sylve's had a good camp so far. All these things contribute to having a little bit more depth. I just think the consistency and the performance and attention to detail, doing the little things right. You know, sometimes it's this much between a guy catching a ball and not catching the ball. When you don't do the right footwork or jam the guy with the right hand or play the right technique, you come up this much short and he makes the catch rather than not making it.

"I just think that kind of consistency, developing those kind of habits and having that kind of confidence and trust in the techniques of what we're trying to do with the players so they don't get themselves in trouble and put themselves in bad position, that's what we're sort of looking for. It's not that they're not capable; it's doing it on a consistent basis. That's the most important thing."

More preseason awards came out as Sports Illustrated named its preseason All-American teams. Alabama led the country with five selections, including three on the first team. Sophomore T.J. Yeldon, senior C.J. Mosley and junior Ha Ha Clinton-Dix nabbed first-team honors while junior Cyrus Kouandjio and sophomore Amari Cooper were named to the second team.

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