Following Alabama’s spring practice, Cyrus Jones was briefly charged in a domestic violence incident. The Tuscaloosa Police Department, which has a stringent policy on physical abuse of women, investigated the charge further and recommended to the judiciary that it be dropped.
Thus, when Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban took questions from sports reporters Tuesday, the only question regarding Jones centered on the player’s physical recovery. And the news was good on both Jones and linebacker Denzel Devall. Both were held out of spring practice as they continued to rehabilitate from surgery following Alabama’s 2014 Southeastern Conference championship season.
Saban said, “Both are fully cleared medically now. We didn’t feel the need to p[ush them in the spring. I think both are ready to go through the summer conditioning program.”
As is often the case for a team looking for a new starting quarterback, much of Saban’s time was spent on various aspects of the position. Last year fifth-year senior Blake Sims was a one-year starter. This year five men are in competition at quarterback – senior Jacob Coker (who was a graduate transfer from Florida State last year), junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell, and true freshman Blake Barnett (who went through spring practice).
Saban said, “All the quarterbacks made progress this spring. We have several we wanted to look at and give reps. Three or four showed promise. The two freshmen both made progress and showed a lot of promise.
“We’ll follow them through the summer and fall camp and see who emerges to give us the best opportunity to have success.”
Regarding the difficulty of working five quarterbacks in practice, Saban said, “We want to give everyone an opportunity.” He recounted that Alabama rotated quarterbacks in the spring in order to be fair to all five candidates. “They all deserve that,” he said.
“When we get where we can zero in on a first, a second, and a third guy, the happier we will be,” Saban said, “but it’s not something we can force. We can’t make it be. We have to let it be.”
Overall, Saban said, “We were pleased with the spring we had, the progress we made. There were a lot of opportunities for young players to get a lot of reps.”
He equated spring practice to a mid-term examination where the team will “see where we need to improve for the final in the fall.”
Saban noted that Bama players are on break and will return to campus “after Memorial Day” to begin summer conditioning and unsupervised drills.
There were two questions somewhat related to Alabama’s quarterback situation.
It was pointed out that Alabama played nine plays per game faster last year than the previous season, and that the faster pace was partly because it seemed to help Sims. The question to Saban was whether that meant the Tide coach had changed his stance, which has been opposition to the fast play, no huddle offenses that prevent defenses from making substitutions.
“Not at all,” Saban said. “We also had 171 more plays of defense last year.” He said he thought the pace of play, including the way a team has to practice, wears on a defense. Nevertheless, he agreed that “It is what it is in the game right now,” and said Alabama would continue to adapt to it.”
When Coker transferred to Alabama with immediate eligibility after being graduated from FSU a year ago, it illuminated the NCAA rule that allows such transfers. The transfer of high profile quarterbacks this spring – Everett Golson from Notre Dame confirmed and Braxton Miller from Ohio State speculated, and specifically speculated as an Alabama possibility – has been a major football topic.
Saban was asked in genral terms about taking a transfer and said his first consideration is “what kind of person [he is], and will he fit with your team. Character and competitive spirit.” He also pointed out that a transfer, whether from junior college or as a graduate transfer, has to have an opportunity to play.
Saban came down on the side of the student-athlete insofar as transfers.
On another question, Saban was very complimentary of new Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who was fired as head coach at Florida following last season, but who previously coached under Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins.