Alabama had the first of its 15 spring practice dates Friday and two players were on the sidelines in black (no contact) jerseys. Both, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban, have had off-season surgery and “will probably not practice all spring.”
He said that linebacker Denzel Devall “had a foot operation that stems back from his original injury in the Ole Miss game a year ago.” And cornerback Cyrus Jones “had a cartilage in his hip that needed to be repaired. That was somethat that came from the season as well.”
Absent from practice was offensive lineman Grant Hill. Saban said Hill “has still got medical leave, and we’re not prepared to make any decisions about what his future status is.”
Just in passing, Saban also reiterated the status of tailback Tyren Jones, who was indefinitely suspended earlier this year. Saban said “he has been suspended this semester so far.”
There was a tad of good injury news with tailback Kenyan Drake going through all drills. Drake missed the last half of 2014 after suffering a broken leg against Ole Miss.
Saban said, “Kenyan is really doing better and better. He actually ran 4.4 (40-yard dash) when we timed the guys the other day. He's doing really well, getting his speed back. He probably can't sustain it because he's not been able to do the same level of conditioning. He has done all the conditioning in the offseason program. He just hasn't been able to do it to the level of the other players.
“I think he's going to get more and more confident. We were really, really pleased with the progress that he made and what he was able to do in practice today.”
Alabama’s practice was in the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility. Bama players will now join other University students on spring break. The next practice is scheduled for Monday, March 13. Spring practice will end with the A-Day Game in Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18.
Saban said the first practice had “a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We had a really good off-season; the players worked hard.
“This first practice will probably give us a little snapshot of where we are and give every player a little snapshot of where he is and what he needs to do to get better. What they need to do to improve, what we need to do to improve as a team
“It's kind of a reference point for where we all are, individually and collectively.”
Saban was asked if he had given his players special spring break instructions. He said, “My message to them was we need everybody to make good choices and decisions about what they do and what they don’t do so that they’re always making choices and decisions that are going to help them be who they want to be. When you know you’re not supposed to do something that you want to do and you know it’s the wrong thing to do, please don’t allow yourself to do that so you won’t have issues and problems and you won’t have to deal with negative consequences relative to your behavior. So that’s kind of the message that we give to our players and I’m hopeful that – and I’m really almost confident that we’ve got pretty good guys on our team, we haven’t had a lot of issues -- we won’t have any over the next 9-10 days.”
Saban said the point of spring practice would be for the coaches to work with every player to give him an opportunity to be his best, and therefore make the Alabama team its best. He also pointed out that there is no depth chart in spring practice.
“Our only expectation right now is that people play with the kind of effort that is our expectation, which I felt like at times we have not gotten in the past,” Saban said. He said he wants a team in which the players “play with the kind of physical and mental toughness that you need to be a team that people really don't like to play because of your relentless competitive attitude.
“We obviously need some guys that are going to be responsible to do their job out there, know what to do, know how to do it, know why it's important to do it that way.
“This really comes down to guys making the right choices and decisions to be all that they can be and to accomplish the goals that they have.
“I think we all probably struggle a little bit between how we feel, what our feelings are and what our choices need to be so that we can accomplish what we want to accomplish.
“That's certainly a challenge for all of us. It's certainly a challenge for this team. It'll be interesting to see how we go through spring ball and see how that holds up.”