Scout Team Players Crucial To Success

Doug Nussmeier, Alabama's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, appreciates Blake Sims for his practice performances that have earned Sims the job as back-up quarterback to AJ McCarron. Nussmeier also recognizes the additional role that Sims has played as the Crimson Tide's scout team quarterback when preparing for spread offense opponents.

Once upon a time the down-the-line players – walk-ons, freshmen, redshirts – were considered cannon fodder. Tackling dummies. But those players have a key role in football success at Alabama as members of the scout team. Those players learn new schemes each week – the offensive and defensive looks that week's opponent will present to Bama on Saturdays.

Al;abama Coach Nick Saban said he could make the case that "the last 40 guys on the team are the most important guys on the team."

Saban's point is that the men who make up the scout team – sometimes called the "look team" because they provide the look of the opponent – are the ones who will help the team prepare for games. And they toil in relative anonymity, their job unnoticed by outsiders. Saban said, "Nobody ever gets any credit, nobody really talks about them, they don't even get to dress sometimes for the game because of the numbers limitations we have.

"These guys are going to be some of the most important on the team because they are going to help prepare the team so that they get the right look, so that they can be well prepared to play and react quickly and fast in the game."

The scout team goes to work today as Alabama completed fall camp Thursday and goes into game preparation for Virginia Tech. The Tide will meet the Hokies in eight days, Aug. 31 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

And just as the first team players, Saban expects each of those on the scout team to meet the challenge of performing his role to the best of his ability. As the coach pointed out, the strength of the team is based on every player doing his job. "Everybody seems to be doing a pretty good job," Saban said, "but we need everybody to do a good job. We can't have 60 per cent, 70 per cent. We need everybody to do a good job regardless of his role."

Alabama third-year sophomore Ryan Kelly worked his way up from scout team to back-up center behind Rimington Award winner Barrett Jones to projected starter this year. He remembers his first week.

Well, sort of.

"I got hit by Dont'a Hightower and that gave me a concussion, so I was out the first week," he said.

But he thinks being on the scout team helped him become aware of "what I was in store for" playing major college football. He was going up againsst the likes of defensive linemen Josh Chapman, Jesse Williams, and Nick Gentry on the line "and all the linebackers. It gave me a good feel for the speed and tempo of what college football would be like."

Cornerback Deion Belue came to Bama from junior college and was an immediate starter, never spending time on the scout team. But, he said, "You have to have the utmost respect for those guys because they come out and practice as hard as we do. We rely on them to give us the best look possible. I respect them. I know it's tough for them."

Belue said that among those who are "giving great looks and going hard for us" are true freshman wide receivers Ardarius Stewart and Robert Foster, who he said will be great players.

(Incidentally, each Monday after Alabama football games, the coaching staff announces the players of the week on offense, defense, and special teams. Sportswriters covering Bama have made a request that the staff also choose and announce a scout team player [or players] of the week.)

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