Nick Saban (Photo by Stuart McNair)

Saban in mid-season form following first spring football practice

It may have only been the first presser of spring practice, but rant-wise, Nick Saban is in mid-season form. Such was the case minutes after Saban’s 2017 Crimson Tide completed its first of 15 spring workouts.

The question seemed innocent enough: Did the time of possession deficit in the championship game lead to ball-control emphasis (in the off-season)?

“There was nothing (in that regard),” Saban said. “We didn’t block (Clemson). We didn’t execute very well. We didn’t throw the ball accurately when we had open people and a couple times we dropped it. I think it was more a lack of execution than it was schematically that we were doing. That’s on us as coaches.

"The defense needs to get off the field on third down so they don’t have to play as many plays. It’s a combination of things. I do think that we could have executed a lot better, and I think most players would tell you that on both sides of the ball.”

Then came the rant, as Saban continued.

“Philosophically, I don’t know where you came up with we’re going to go to ball control,” he said. “That’s not what we do. I mean, the New England Patriots threw the ball over 60 percent of the time, which is more than we threw it. So where does that assumption come from? Or do you do what everybody else in the media does, just create some (poop) and throw it on the wall and see what sticks – which is what I see happening everywhere. People who scream the loudest, they kind of get the attention and we pass a rule that everybody has to live with or some law and the consequences mess up a lot of other things. We do it all the time. We’re doing it right now.

“The NCAA’s doing it. We’re going to change the way we can have summer camps. We can’t have high school coaches working summer camps. It’s (one of) the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. But it is what it is and whatever they do they do. So we say we don’t want third parties dealing with players. So we’re not going to have the high school coach bring them to camp, but some third party guy can bring them to camp now. Makes no sense at all. All the people who have common sense, they won’t say anything about it. But the people who scream the loudest will get the thing changed and it’ll mess everything up. That’s the way it goes, the way it goes in the world, politics, the way it goes.

“Same with you (media). We’re going to be more conservative now in a ball control offense. Where’d that come from? I never said that. Nobody in this building ever said that. So where’d you come up with that? Just had a dream about it or what? If we’d have caught some passes in the national championship game – we had guys open – we wouldn’t have had to control the ball. We’d have scored more touchdowns.”

There was 2017 Alabama football discussed. Saban said Lester Cotton worked with the ones at right guard. He added, “We don’t have a depth chart right now. We have a rep chart. It’s an organizational chart for repetitions. I know you all don’t get that concept, but I say it every year.

(Cotton) played there. We’re going to try to get the best five offensive linemen. I can’t really tell you after one day of practice who’s doing great at offensive line. It’s hard to evaluate those guys in the offseason program. There’s nobody that struggles more in the offseason program than the big guys. It’s good for them. The skill guys look great doing it, but the big guys don’t look so good. It’ll be interesting to see how those guys do now that we’re practicing football and they’re playing in a short area. We’re hopeful that … We think we have enough center and guard types. We need some guys to be able to come through and play tackle for us.”

Asked about depth on the defensive front, Saban said it’s tough to evaluate that position in shorts and helmets, mandatory for day one of spring. “We haven’t hit anybody yet. I don’t know,” said. “I think Isaiah Buggs can be a good player. Da'Shawn Hand has been a good player for us. Daron Payne has played a lot of football around here for two years and been a good player for us. Raekwon (Davis) played some last year. Quinnen Williams is going to have to play some. Josh Frazier played quite a bit last year. We’ve got a couple other freshmen coming in. I mean, they all need to get better and they all need to improve, but we’ve played with worse.

“Look, I don’t compare anything to anything. We could’ve said when Dont'a Hightower and Rolando McClain were the two inside linebackers and they left, we don’t compare them to the next guys. That’s not fair to the next guys. And it’s not fair to compare these guys to who we had last year or who we had the year before. They have to develop an identity of their own – as a unit and individually – and we’re going to work hard to help them do that.”

Injury-wise, Saban said several players will wear the black injury jerseys for a while. “Four players that I know you’re probably interested in: (Defensive back) Jared Mayden had a hip injury from last season that required surgery, so he’s going to be limited throughout the spring and probably will be able to participate very little but should have a full recovery. (Linebacker) Shaun Dion Hamilton had an ACL in the SEC Championship Game, so he’s doing some things, running but probably will also be limited throughout the spring. But we also anticipate a full recovery. (Running backs) B.J. Emmons and Bo Scarbrough are both guys that are doing individual drills, are able to do some things and probably will make progress throughout the spring and probably be able to go in a short period of time. They’re all doing very well, and I don’t think we have any issues with that.”

Interesting position experiments often occur in spring. Those noted Tuesday were redshirt freshman Ben Davis at outside linebacker and sophomore Trevon Diggs at cornerback. Davis spent his redshirt season in the middle and could still return there. The same is true for Diggs, who spent most of his time at receiver.

Saban also addressed why spring drills started a bit later than normal this year. “I think it’s two-fold. I think spring break was very early, we had sort of a late finish in the season, and we had some guys that needed some time to be able to heal up to be able to practice. So rather than have a split spring practice and starting early then having spring break, we just decided to wait until after spring break, which gave us the opportunity on the other end not to have A-Day on Easter weekend, which I never like to do. We usually don’t practice on Saturday of Easter weekend so players can go home and be with their family, and we’re not asking people to come to the A-Day Game on a holiday. Those are kind of a combination of things.”

Alabama returns to the practice field both Thursday and Saturday this week. A-Day is set for April 22.

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