Fall Camp Ends, Game Prep Begins

This has been a week of new experiences for the Alabama football team. Not drastic changes, but changes nonetheless. After completing a "nothing but football" period from the first of August until Wednesday, Tide players became student-athletes with the start of classes. Thursday's practice was the final day of fall camp. On Friday, Bama begins preparation for the season-opening game.

Alabama begins game preparation for Virginia Tech beginning with Friday's practice. The Crimson Tide will meet the Holies a week from Saturday, on Aug. 31, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Following Thursday's work, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "The number one thing we wanted to get out of this week is ‘What kind of progress are we making as a team?'

"The question I asked the players after practice is ‘What kind of progress did you make this week. How much were you committed to improving the things that you needed to do to become a better player so that you were more prepared to be able to contribute in a positive way, whatever your role might be to the team?'"

Ryan Kelly, a third-year sophomore, takes over for Barrett Jones at center on the offensive line. Kelly said the players could feel a difference as Bama finished up fall camp.

"I think everybody's pretty excited that fall camp's over now," Kelly said. "It's going to start feeling a lot better, gaming and working for an opponent, and getting ready for Virginia Tech in a little over a week now."

Alabama has made it through fall camp with a minimum of injuries. Cornerback Deion Belue seems to be recovered from his hamstring pull. Defensive lineman Dakota Ball, who had to have an appendectomy early in fall work, was back in practice Thursday. Wide receiver Amari Cooper, who suffered a foot injury, "was able to practice quite a bit," Saban said.

"(Defensive lineman) Wilson Love is the only guy that didn't practice today," Saban said. "He practiced yesterday, had some reoccurring symptoms so we decided to hold him out. I don't think we've got anybody else on the injured list." Nose tackle Brandon Ivory, who suffered a knee sprain in last Saturday's scrimmage, had been limited during the week and seemed to be still a bit slow in the brief time media were allowed to view practice Thursday.

Saban said that Blake Sims is clearly the number two quarterback, but there still isn't a determination on number three.

He said, "We looked at Cooper Bateman some. We looked at Alex Alec Morris. We looked at Luke Del Rio. We haven't made any final determination as to who is the third or whether we want to continue to evaluate. I don't think any of them have really beaten Blake out. So he's the second. You know, Blake has actually improved quite a bit as a passer. He's got a much better grasp of the offense. Obviously, last year, you could see that he adds a different dimension as a runner, athletically, when he's in there. That's still a work in progress as to who the third guy's going to be."

Last week Alabama experimented with the offensive line, moving Arie Kouandjio from left guard to right tackle and Austin Shepherd from right tackle to left guard. This week the two had gone back to the positions they had played through most of fall camp.

Saban said, "Sometimes you want to look at the options you have to see how it may affect what you do. I think that probably the deciding factor. I think there were positives for us when Arie played tackle and I think there were positives for us when Shepherd played guard. I think Kellen Williams is also in that mix of being able to play guard or tackle. I think at the end of the day, the players were more comfortable the way they were. They'd played quite a bit that way, the chemistry was a little bit better, the carryover in terms of repetitions that they had was probably a little bit better. I think for the kind of team that we are, that's probably the best way for us to go."

In answer to a question, Saban said the 2013 Bama football team would honor former Athletics Director Mal Moore, who died in March, with a helmet decal.

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