Stuart McNair

Alabama’s A-Day Game produces some good, some needs for improvement

Alabama Coach Nick Saban said that competition is good at several positions

As is the case with every spring football game, Alabama’s A-Day generated some good, bad, and ugly performances and results. “I think there were some good things out there today, and there obviously were some things we could have done better,” said Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban after the White team edged the Crimson squad 7-3. “When you match yourself against yourself, sometimes there are mismatches that you can’t overcome.


“I’m not sure we have all the best players on the best teams. There’s a lot of competition on the offensive line. There’s competition at quarterback. There’s competition on defense at several positions. We have several players missing… that will have a huge impact not only in how they play their positions, but in the leadership they show.


“I don’t think any conclusions can be drawn about anything that happened today other than the fact that this is an opportunity for us as coaches as well as the team to look at where we are individually and collectively. We’ll continue to evaluate, and use the rest of this off-season to focus on individual improvement for the players that we have.”


The bad? Saban said, “It was a little disappointing offensively in terms of the false starts and penalties and undisciplined types of things that we’ve worked very hard on this spring. I thought we’d made progress in those areas so those types of things wouldn’t be an issue.”


Regarding the quarterback competition, Saban saw good and bad. “There were some good plays by the quarterbacks,” he said, “and I think every one of them has some things they can learn from.  I saw some good things, and I saw some things we probably need to do better. We had some dropped passes by some receivers, some very good players who don’t usually drop passes.


“In the past… when we’ve had a new quarterback, the defense looks better than the offense. I did think that the second offense… that missed four (Adam Griffith) field goals moved the ball much more effectively. Damien Harris (134 total yards) had a really nice day. The young quarterbacks (Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts) did a nice job and made some plays. I thought the consistency that the (White offense) played with was a lot better than the actual first team.


“I hope this (scrimmage) breeds more competition, and more things for us to evaluate. All in all, I think we’ve had a good spring, and we’ve made progress. We have a lot of parts that need to come together. Some were absent today. Some will be new players coming in. How those (new) players fit in, and get embraced by the leadership on our team, will go a long ways in saying how many of those guys really contribute. All the pieces are not together. The focus we want to have is on off-season player development, individually and collectively as a team.”


Saban said he would meet with each player Monday and Tuesday to evaluate where they are athletically, personally, and academically, and give each man an improvement plan.


Asked to expound on the performances of Barnett and Hurts, Saban said, “I think both guys made some good throws. Both guys showed their athleticism in terms of their ability to extend plays. We certainly looked a little faster and a little quicker in terms of how we’re moving on offense when those two were in there… but there’s also many occasions where they should have thrown the ball ‘hot’ and didn’t, got sacked, should have gotten rid of the ball and tried to run around and lost 20 yards on a sack. Some of the inexperience showed in some of the negative plays that are sort of like unforced errors in tennis. You don’t really need to be taking these sacks. It doesn’t really have to do with ability. It has everything to do with experience, knowledge, and reacting to what happens. That’s going to be the key to the drill with those guys in terms of their development, but they both did some really good things today.


“Let me say this: who you’re playing against matters. The twos were playing against the twos. Our two defense is probably not as good as the two offense, in all honesty, especially with Jonathan Allen and Dakota Ball both in the two-deep, and they’re not in there, then all of a sudden the guys playing on the twos are the threes. Depth on defense is one of the concerns that we have. It wasn’t surprising to me that the second (White) offense was able to move the ball effectively (297 total yards to 131).


“The first defense played a little better. We have some guys that are mismatch problems in pass rush that really make it more difficult for the quarterbacks to operate.”


Saban was probably referencing Dwight Stephenson Lineman of the Game winner Tim Williams, who was only credited with two sacks but seemed to have many more.


When asked about Williams versus the first offensive line, Saban gave an interesting answer about that unit. “We don’t really have a first team offensive line,” he said. “Those just happened to be the guys that went with the first team today. A couple of those guys probably will be first team offensive linemen. “Shank” (guard Alphonse Taylor) started all last year. He actually played on the second team today. He’s going to continue to be on the second team if he doesn’t get his weight down and get in shape.  Would (Taylor) be a better first teamer with all the experience he has?


“(Left tackle) Cam Robinson will certainly be back. That could very much affect who plays the other tackle. Lester Cotton would have probably played right tackle better than (Jonah Williams) today, but we’re trying to develop (Cotton) as a guard, because we think that’s where he’s going to end up playing next year, so don’t draw conclusions (on the line’s depth chart). If you do, you’re going to be wrong.”


Saban liked what he saw from backup outside linebackers Christian Miller and Anfernee Jennings. “Both guys have improved. I know Christian had (three) sacks today. He’s got some pass rush ability. Anfernee Jennings (who also had three sacks) probably has improved as much as anybody over the course of this spring practice. Las year, he was hurt, so he missed part of the season. When he came back, he was on the scout team. He was really starting at pretty much ground zero in terms of his knowledge of what the expectation was, what his job was, understanding the defensive system.  I think it’s important for us that those guys continue to develop, so they can play winning football for us next year.


While Saban did not discuss the rumored Achilles injury to third team running back Ronnie Clark in Thursday’s practice, he did mention that backup linebacker Keith Holcombe “didn’t scrimmage today. He’s got a slight concussion.”


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Saban concluded by thanking the announced crowd of 76, 212 and his former Alabama players who presented him a golf bag at a Friday night banquet. “To see that appreciation is touching,” he said.

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