Important Work Ahead For Coker

Alabama Coach Nick Saban was part of the Southeastern Conference teleconference of the 14 SEC football coaches in a post-spring practice discussion. Most of the talk was about the new SEC football schedule format beginning in 2016, but there was also some talk of football.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban gave a short, general update and then took questions on a couple of players and two new coaches.

For months one of the most intriguing players for the 2014 season is a man who has not yet entered The University. Jacob Coker is completing his degree requirements at Florida State and will arrive at Bama within a month. He will take part in the summer off-season program and then compete for the quarterback job when fall camp opens in August.

Although it was not a part of the conversation, a new rule this year allows players to be involved in supervised work for eight hours per week with strength and conditioning coaches. But teams also have the option to take up to two of those hours for study (not practice) with coaches.

As for the challenge facing Coker this summer, Saban said, "Basically we're talking about learning a system so that he has a chance, when opportunity comes in August."

He said that Coker being in Tuscaloosa this summer will give him a "better chance of feeling comfortable and playing with confidence and developing the physical skills to implement the things which we want to do." The coach added that those skills "probably are not as different as people would like to make them from what he has done. It's just the idea of terminology and understanding and feeling comfortable in the system we have. The learning curve is going to be steep, but he's a bright, young guy. He has experience and knowledge in a similar system, so we're hopeful we can make a smooth transition for him."

Coker will be under the tutelage of one of the new staff members, Lane Kiffin, who came aboard this year as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kiffin, who had been head coach at Tennessee and USC before taking the Bama job, was one of those asked about.

Saban said, ""Lane did a fantastic job with our staff and our players. Both parties have a lot of respect for his knowledge, enthusiasm, experience. They respect him as a teacher. He really did a good job with the staff and players. Any time change, everybody has to make little adjustments. We tried to keep some of the things we're doing and allow Lane the freedom to do some of the things he wants to do. I think everybody's bought into that and it's worked out really, really well. I think he's a great asset to our staff in terms of his knowledge and experience.

"It's been great for me, too, to have a guy who has been a head coach before and had some of the issues and problems we have.

"I feel really good about his addition to our staff."

Saban was also asked about Kevin Steele, who rejoined the on-the-field staff this spring coaching middle linebackers.

"Kevin is an outstanding coach," Saban said. "He's been a great teacher, he's been a coordinator, he's a very good recruiter, so I think he has tremendous assets in all areas in what I would look for in a coach. The fact he has coached for us before and knows our system is also an asset for us. We've excited about having him. He's a good fit with the coaches we have here."

The final question for Saban was about the progress made by upcoming sophomore tailback Derrick Henry. The coach said, "I think Derrick made a tremendous amount of growth last year during the season, during the Iron Bowl practice, in the bowl game, had an outstanding off season, had a good spring. We're excited about his future. He's a hard worker, he's a fine young man, tries to do everything the right way on and off the field. We're encouraged by his progress and we think he's capable of making a tremendous contribution to our team in a lot of different ways. Now he's sort of comfortable in what is expected of him here, not only in running the ball, but in running pass routes, catching the ball, pass protection, being a complete player at his positions. I think he's much more confident and thinks he can make a tremendous contribution as well."

Saban's brief introduction on Bama's progress was "We really felt we had a really good off-season, really good spring practice. I think games kind of get won and lost this time of year in terms of the kind of team chemistry you develop and how teams pay attention to detail. The team is an important part of what they want to accomplish in the fall.

"We're really pleased with the individual meetings we had after spring practice and the direction that our coaches are going now in spring recruiting.

"I'm on the Crimson Caravan tour meeting and speaking with our supporters and fans and alumni, and that's something I always look forward to."

Saban also shared his condolences to the family of Alabama swimmer John Servati, who was killed during violent storms in Tuscaloosa Monday night.

He said, "Our thoughts and prayers are out to the family and friends of John Servati, who was a student and athlete here at Alabama in our program. He was a fine young man and I want to make sure that his family knows that our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

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