Early Progress Pleases Saban

Alabama Coach Nick Saban has seen good and … well, he seems to have seen mostly good as the Crimson Tide football team had its third practice of the spring and its first in full gear.

Alabama will have another practice Friday and then join the rest of The University with spring break until March 31. Bama will work through the April 19 A-Day Game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the 15th and final practice of the spring.

Although the Crimson Tide worked Monday, that practice was in the indoor facility because of wet fields. "It's still wet out there," Saban said following Wednesday's outdoors practice. "It's really hard to stand up."

The Tide coach said, "The first day in pads is always a little more challenging, a little more difficult. It tests everyone's mettle a little bit. Obviously makes it easy to see the guys that overcome a little adversity and continue to execute, do their job, have the discipline to pay attention to detail. Some of the other guys obviously have to mature a little bit more.

"I think that immature people and immature players sort of think that life's going to give into their demands. Mature people know that I have to give into life's demands.

"If you really want to advance in this world, you've got to kind of do what you need to do to be successful, and most of the time that gets defined by somebody else, like your boss. He defines the expectation for you, so if you want to advance you need to do a good job. We need everybody to buy in and do a good job for what we need them to do so that we can be successful as a team."

The Tide coach said, "I really like the progress that the players are making. They've got a really good attitude about what we're trying to do.

"The attitude toward that has been very good. I'm pleased, but obviously we've got a long way to go. We have a lot of positions with a lot of players to get more players who can play winning football.

"Some of the guys that have confidence, play fast, look very impressive, make a lot of plays. But we obviously have a long way to go in terms of getting more players that can play that way."

One challenge for Saban and his coaches is a regular one for Alabama. The Crimson Tide has a good graduation rate and also sends a lot of underclassmen to the NFL. This year is no exception.

"I think that the dynamic on your team changes every year," Saban said. "You probably lose about 25 per cent of your team every year in college, and that's always a challenge.

"New leaders emerge. Guys have new roles. Some people accept those roles a lot more readily than others and easily and adapt to them, and it makes a significant difference on the team. Some guys make a huge improvement when they feel like their role's going to increase and they're going to have a better opportunity to play. They become more conscientious, pay attention to detail.

"Sometimes you're a little amazed at when somebody does get an opportunity, they take advantage of it. We've been very fortunate here that we've always had guys step up and do that. I think we have some good young players who are going to have an opportunity to improve and grow and become very good players for us next year."

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