This is an important time for Alabama football. The Crimson Tide is preparing for its second scrimmage of the spring Saturday. Bama reached the two-thirds mark of drills, the 10th of 15 practice dates. Alabama will practice in shells Friday.
The Tide’s A-Day Game is at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, April 18, at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “We've had two practices where I think the players have really worked hard to try to improve. That's certainly the focus this week. What we're really trying to get the players to do is to practice with intensity on a consistent basis, play more relaxed, and play with more confidence in what they're doing through the repetitions that we get.
“The other thing is - it was a little warmer today, a little more humid out there - is having the mental toughness to be able to sustain what we do, which mental toughness to me is being able to deliver your best regardless of the circumstance that you're in, whether it's heat, whether it's cold, whether it's road, whether it's home, whether you're ahead, whether you're behind.
“And that's something that our young players especially need to learn how to do and not start to play sloppy, not pay attention to detail, not do things the way that we want to do them.
“This week we always take on more situations, game situations. We did ‘get the ball back,’ and ‘two-minute.’ We had more team. We do more work on opponents' problems and issues that are things that we typically don't see. It's a lot for the players, but we really want to give them a lot so that they leave spring practice with as much possible knowledge as we possibly can get.”
Saban said, “Bo Scarbrough had knee surgery. We're hopeful that we'll be able to get him back for the season. He was doing really, really well this spring practice and it happened in two-minute late in the (last Saturday) scrimmage.
“A'Shawn had a sprained ankle and sprained knee. Not really anything that will keep him out. He'll be day to day but we'll be a little conservative with when we let him come back.”
Saban gave a broad outline of what he hopes to see from last Saturday’s first scrimmage through the upcoming scrimmage Saturday. He said, “In every aspect of what we're doing, we just need to play with better fundamentals, better execution on a more consistent basis, better focus, better ability for 11 guys to go out there and know what they're doing and do it fast. That's really what we want to see at every position.
“There's not a position on the field that we're satisfied with in terms of where we are. There's not a position on the field that we're disappointed with, but we know that everybody has an opportunity to improve and that's certainly something we'd like to see.
“That's why we're practicing, and we hope to see the things that we emphasize in practice come to fruition in how the players compete when the scrimmage comes on Saturday.”
For the second consecutive year, Alabama is looking for a new starting quarterback, but Saban couldn’t shed the kind of light that most people are looking for.
“I think from a consistency standpoint, we're far from making a determination as to who would be first, second or third,” he said.
In last week’s scrimmage, he said, “I think all the guys did some things that were encouraging. We're encouraged by the young players, how much they've improved during this spring, and in some cases from last year to this year. David Cornwell has done very well this spring. Blake Barnett being a freshman has done very well this spring. Jake Coker has done well at times, and Alec Morris has done well at times. Cooper Bateman, who's playing receiver some just because he's a good athlete, is still getting some opportunity at quarterback.”
Ronnie Clark, a 6-3, 215-pound redshirt freshman who came to Alabama as an athlete capable of playing defensive back, linebacker, receiver, or running back, is working at the somewhat thin tailback spot.
Saban said, “Ronnie Clark's doing just fine. He doesn't have a black (no contact) shirt on any more, which means he's ready for full go. I think he's developed enough confidence. We're hopeful that he'll develop with (true freshman) DeSherrius Flowers.
“(Tailbacks) Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake have done a really, really good job all spring long. Those two guys have been fantastic in terms of the way they've competed, how fast they've played, the confidence they've played with, and certainly both have the ability to make plays.
“We needed to establish some depth. Bo (Scarbrough) was the guy who was giving us that. There's going to be some opportunity for young guys that come in here to be able to play early on. That's happened in the past with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and a lot of guys. Maybe some of the guys that we recruited this year will get some opportunity early on as well.”
Saban also commented on the progress of inside linebacker Reuben Foster, a 6-1, 244-pound junior.
“Reuben’s doing a really good job,” Saban said. “He’s had a really good spring. He hasn’t had the problems with injuries; his consistency has been really, really good. He had a good scrimmage on Saturday; he’s practiced pretty well every day. I think sometimes the mental toughness thing of when you get a little bit tired or when it gets hot can you stay focused and sustain, he’d be one of the young players that I would put in a category of guys that need to do that better. But he’s made tremendous progress and we really feel good about where we are.
“Actually we have three guys inside. Shaun Dion Hamilton has done a good job this spring and Keith Holcombe has done a really good job this spring. I feel better about those guys even more than a year ago, even though we had two guys with more experience, we didn’t have much depth, and those guys have all done a pretty good job this spring.”