Tide Prepares For First Scrimmage

Once upon a time, spring practice was considered a trial by fire. Players left school rather than finish the weeks of physical hardship. Those who remained were made stronger by that which did not…well, you know. The stories, no doubt, have grown with time, but it is true that rules have reduced the number of spring scrimmage days to three, one of which is the spring game.

Alabama will have the first of those scrimmage games (closed to the public) at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. The Crimson Tide is on something of an accelerated schedule to be ready for the scrimmage because of The University calendar, which put spring break dates into the time frame available for spring practice. After nine days off, Bama returned to the practice field Monday for the fifth of its 15 spring work days.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban acknowledged the "difficult circumstance for players when you have to split spring practice."

Up until spring break, Saban said, he had been pleased with the off-season program and with the progress made in the first four practices, both of which he called "really good."

Monday, he said, "We probably took a step back, but that's expected when you have this much time off." Ideally, Saban suggested, there would be time to build up to scrimmage mode. That is not an option, though.

"Our scrimmages are when they are and we have to try to get the players ready for that," the coach said. "It's time to get back to work."

That work, he said, means the players practicing "so they can go be aggressive in the game and really dictate the tempo of the game with their confidence and intensity." He said players now have to "recommit" to being coached and to making improvement.

In a first spring scrimmage, Saban said, he's looking for "how guys compete." He said that practice is designed not just to get it right, but to have "enough repetitions so that he can't get it wrong."

A scrimmage means players doing it on their own. Coaches will be on the sidelines rather than giving them play-by-play instruction. That gives Saban the opportunity to see which players have the "knowledge and experience" to be able to compete.

Additionally, Saban said, is evaluating how players "respond to negative plays. We've had some pretty decent teams, but none of them that I can remember have eveer played a perfect game, where there wasn't some adversity…to overcome.

"It's how guys respond to negative, how guys respond to positive, how guys can continue to just keep playing the next play; how they get affected by good and bad things that happen, because you've got to play for 60 minutes."

Saban also dropped a bombshell.

"I think some guys about now start to worry about the depth chart and where they are on the depth chart," he said.

Quick correction.

" Well we really don't have a depth chart."

He added that the goal should be for every player to be the best he can be. "Nobody should judge anybody and nobody should pout about anything," he said. "Everybody should be focused on getting better. If you focus on getting better and being the best you can be then you have the best opportunity to get where you want to go, and that's where we want to get, that's where they want to get and we want to work together with them so they have the best opportunity to do that.

"We just need to get back to paying attention to detail and having enough mental toughness to sustain after having a break; sort of getting the ‘poor me's a little bit when things get tough out there. So pay attention to detail and stay focused on doing things right so people can do their jobs well.

"Wednesday we're going to continue to install and practice and do the things we need to do to get these players ready to be able to scrimmage on Saturday. On Friday we'll polish things up a little bit.

"I'm really encouraged and pleased with the attitude the team has; they've been working hard to try to get things right."

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