Freshman running back DeSherrius Flowers, who Nick Saban described as “being hurt all spring,” injured a shoulder early in the spring-ending practice for Alabama, but Saban termed it “not serious.” Guard Alphonse “Big Shank” Taylor injured a knee and left the game, but Saban said it “just needs rest.”
Saban said spring practice can be construed as a midterm exam for a student. “I look at …the spring game as a chance to see where your team is. It’s not a final exam. It kind of shows you the progress you’ve made, and how many guys you actually have out there that have made the kind of progress they need to make, and if they can elevate their games and go play in a competitive situation with some kind of consistency.
“(Spring practice) also points out the areas where you need to improve, individually as well as collectively as a team, and where we have to invest our time in the future to be able to fix some of those things.”
Saban said he saw some bright spots offensively. “I thought the first offense (the White team) did a pretty good job of run/pass balance. I was very pleased with the way our two young receivers played,” he said, speaking of co MVP’s Rob Foster (six catches, 125 yards) and Ardarius Stewart (118 yards on eight grabs with a 40-yard touchdown catch). They both made plays. They both played with confidence.”
Regarding the quarterbacks, Saban took a tone of fairness. “If I would’ve played on one of those teams, I would have played better on the White team,” he said. “I can still play quarterback. I can sling it a little bit, but I can’t see very well. I might not be able to avoid the rush when I need to, but I’m just saying that (Jake Coker and Alec Morris) had a much better opportunity. We lost a lot of guys and don’t have a lot of depth on offense right now, and that really affects the second unit more than it does the first, especially when you add two guys that are injured.” Saban said he was referring to running back Bo Scarborough and receiver Cam Sims, who are both out with knee injuries.
“I thought (senior quarterback) Jake (Coker) did a good job, but he threw the… pick-six (returned by Maurice Smith 51 yards), Saban said. “I thought Jake (14-28, one TD, one interception) did a pretty good job of (showing leadership) today.
“A big emphasis this spring has been ‘the ball.’ How are we going to take care of the ball on offense, and how are we going to ball-hawk on defense? We obviously did a better job (Saturday) of ball-hawking on defense, because (seven) is way too many turnovers (between the two teams). You’ve got to take care of the ball.”
Saban then quoted some stats provided by Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett during a recent coaches clinic at Alabama. “If you’re plus one (in turnovers), you have an 80 per cent chance of winning,” he noted. “If you’re plus two, you’ve got a 95 per cent chance to win, and it goes up from there.”
Saban then made this pronouncement: “There can be no great conclusions drawn from any of what happened today, other than we’re pleased with what we saw from some of the guys. We’ll certainly take that into the summer and into fall camp, and we’ll build on it.”
Asked specifically about the secondary, Saban said, “Sometimes interceptions occur because of the offense (mistakes), and sometimes they occur because of great plays. I love to see our offense make big plays, but when they make them against our defense, it’s like ‘Wow, man,’ because one of our big points of emphasis was not to give up big plays. That’s something that we need to work on.”
Saban was then asked about senior running back Kenyan Drake, who ran for 13 yards and was credited with 57 yards on a pair of kick-off returns. “I think he had a great day, and that’s how he’s played all spring. I don’t think he had anything to prove out there today by going out there and getting tackled, and us putting him in a situation where he’d be at greater risk of injury. He’s pretty much full speed (after last year’s horrific leg injury against Ole Miss), but I think the best thing for (Drake) is to be smart. He’s probably pleased with the spring he had, and glad he got a lot of work in.
“(Running back wise), we’ve obviously got two guys (Henry and Drake) that have proven around here over time that they are very good players. Bo Scarborough was having a really good spring and played well in the first scrimmage before his injury. Ronnie Clark is coming off an injury and is not 100 per cent. We have a freshman runner (Damien Harris) coming in. After the first two guys, there hasn’t been a real solid opportunity to have any continuity and development of any of these (younger) players. I think whether it’s a freshman that comes in, or the players we have now, that’s where the depth (at running back) has to come from. It’s unfortunate because we’ve had some guys here, and they didn’t live up to what they were supposed to do, and they aren’t here anymore. We feel comfortable and confident that we can develop the players that we have. We have some explosive players there and we will keep working with them.”
Saban said he was happy with spring junior linebacker Reuben Foster had. “Reuben had a really good spring,” Saban said. “He was able to stay healthy. He made a lot of plays. He’s got a better understanding of the defense. We’re encouraged.” Saban added that Foster was the starter at the ‘Will’ linebacker in nickel (which is used most often) and sophomore Shaun Dion Hamilton is the starter in the base defense.
Saban added that two young corners, redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey and sophomore Tony Brown both “had good springs. Marlon has a lot more confidence, and he’s improved a lot. He’s developed nicely for us.”
Concerning the tight end position, Saban said, “We don’t really have a ‘thumper.’ We have more athletic tight ends and we adjust accordingly. Ty (Flournoy-) Smith made a lot of progress. Dakota Ball developed in the spring. Johnny Dwight moved from defensive line and he’s not played a lot of tight end. We recruited a tight end (Hale Hentges), and he’s going to have an opportunity.”
Flournoy-Smith had 46 yards on five catches. Ball had three for 23 yards, and Dwight caught one late for seven. O.J. Howard was not credited with a catch, but Saban said “O.J. had a really good spring and he should have a really good year next year.” H-back/tight end Michael Nysewander had a nine-yard grab.
Saban said he and his staff will meet Monday to finalize spring evaluations, while players will be encouraged to finish he spring strong academically.