Alabama Passing Must Be More Efficient

You’ve heard the old joke about the television sportscaster: “We’ve got a partial baseball score. Baltimore 2.” Following Alabama’s second and final scrimmage of preseason practice Saturday, sports reporters were given partial statistics.

Asked about the running backs, Alabama Coach Nick Saban gave the number of running attempts by his tailbacks. No yards. No touchdowns. Not much editorial comment.

Saban said last week he wanted tailback Derrick Henry to have no more than five carries, and that’s what he had. This week he wanted Henry to have 6-8 carries and he had eight.

Kenyan Drake had six, Damien Harris had 14,” Saban said. “So that’s about what we wanted to get out of ‘em. We wanted to get them banged, we wanted to get Kenyan Drake hit; he hadn’t been hit since the Ole Miss game, so he scrimmaged quite a bit and we wanted five or six carries for him and to play a lot of loose play downs, which he did.

“I like the running backs. I think I like the things that we can do in the running game with the backs that we have. Obviously, that’s not something that we really go out there and emphasize in the scrimmage.”

He said wide receiver Ardarius Stewart “had a really good day. He had eight catches and made some really good catches; adjusted to the ball well; made some contested plays, which was good to see.”

And then, to the crux of the matter, the quarterbacks. For that he gave the number of pass attempts by four of the five. For the second consecutive press briefing, Saban left redshirt freshman David Cornwell out of the quarterback statistics discussion, limited though that discussion was. How limited? It was limited to the number of passes thrown by four of the contenders.

He said, “All the quarterbacks got some opportunity today. I think Cooper Bateman had 27 throws, Alec Morris had 21, Jacob Coker had 26, Blake Barnett had 11. So we tried to give everybody some opportunity and we will evaluate how they are doing. Jake missed three days in practice this week so the other guys got a few more reps during the course of the week. But I thought he did a decent job today, taking that into consideration.”

Even though statistics can be very misleading when not put into context (i.e., rushing yards against the first team defense are more impressive than runs against the third team defense), Saban’s reluctance to share them as he has in most scrimmages over the past eight-plus years may be telling.

And Saban said the most important area where improvement is needed is making the passing game more efficient – “eliminating the drops, make plays when you have the opportunity, quarterbacks put the ball where people have a chance to catch it and run.

“So just a little more precision that we needed to develop.

“There was improvement from the week before, but we need more precision in that area.”

Saban said he thought there was “a lot of improvement out there” in the scrimmage as a whole.

It was hot and humid in Bryant-Denny Stadium for the two-hour scrimmage. “It was tough,” Saban said. “It took a lot of mental toughness to kind of grind through the conditions.

“I thought in the beginning of the scrimmage the first two teams didn’t dominate like you’d want them to. But then as the scrimmage moved on, I thought the first teams played a little better, tackled a little better.”

He said the defense had a couple of turnovers that were returned for scores (and pointed out as he has before that when the defense does something good, it means the offense has done something bad, and vice versa). He said he wants the team to get more turnovers, but “when you’re playing against yourself, you don’t like the fact you didn’t take care of the ball.

“We’ve talked about the ball before – the ball, the ball, the ball.”

Alabama is now two weeks from opening the season. Bama will take on Wisconsin in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Texas on Sept. 5.

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